BY JINGO - Colonial History & Wargames Page


The following is a set of recommendations for the completion of a Boxer Rebellion project using BATTLES FOR EMPIRE, 1870-1902 (BFE). This is what the White Rock Wargamers used for their project.

Using BFE for the Boxer Rebellion

BFE does not include specific rules for the Boxer Rebellion. However, the forces employed in the Rebellion by both sides generally fit the unit types already represented in the rules.

The Boxers:

The Boxers and most other Chinese units, were similar enough to the Dervishes to use their movement charts and rules. Of course, the character of the Boxer forces will really be defined by the composition of their forces, a composition which changed through the short conflict.

The Boxers were one of several secret societies that opposed the influence and exploitation of China by the west. Consequently, when the conflict erupted in 1900, the Boxers favoured traditional edged weapons and opposed the use of western firearms. Of course, after the initial engagements of the war, the Boxers lost some of their orthodoxy and used firearms in increasing numbers to counter the firepower of the Imperial forces. Furthermore, as the conflict unfolded Imperial Chinese forces joined the Boxers in increasing numbers bringing their modern arms with them.

One unit type that the Dervish rules will not accommodate are the Tigermen. These swordsmen were skirmishers but were used in a forlorn hope-like manner to breakup an enemy charge - particularly by cavalry!

Tigermen rules:

Tigermen are organized and based normally but are always in skirmish order. Tigermen should be rated as Elite (fanatics) and, unlike whirling, skirmishing Dervishes, may move while in skirmish order. In spite of their skirmish order, Tigermen may charge any target type, even in the open. They may adopt a normal linear skirmish formation OR may arrange their stands in a Massed- like formation (2 stands up, 2 stands back) but with a 1" gap between ranks to indicate a "deep" skirmish order.

Although they are permanently in skirmish order, these Tigers do not feel vulnerable in melee and therefore do NOT suffer the -2 for "skirmishers in melee in the open" on the Unit Conduct Chart.

All other rules for skirmishers apply.

If arranged in a wide skirmish line they may be fired THROUGH, with a -1 penalty, against massed/formed targets in the same range band; declare the intended target of the firers before rolling. When arranged in a "deep" formation the normal target priority rules apply (e.g. Skirmishers may not be fired through, only past, to engage massed/formed targets in the same range band). This rule reflects the even more dispersed nature of the moving Tigerman skirmish line than the type usually adopted by Natives to engage in a fire-fight.

Chinese regulars:

Most Imperial Chinese troops were dressed and fought in a manner similar to the Boxers; for example Bannermen have been assessed as little better than the peasant rabble of the Boxers.

Although they saw comparatively little action, westernized troops did exist in the Chinese army. We will need to assess how best to represent their fighting style. Perhaps they should be based a little wider than Imperials but use the same rules as for Formed units. Also, they should probably be rated as "green" colonial recruits, and 2nd rate firers.

The Imperials:

Imperial forces are used as per the rules. Note that the Trained Colonial Recruits charts should be used for some of the Imperial troops (e.g. some Indians, although others should be rated "elite", and some Russians) and many units should be second rate firers.

Figure organization and Basing:

To integrate the Boxer Rebellion forces with those I already have for other fronts, all foot units are 12 figures and mounted units are 8 figures strong. All units have four stands.

Imperial foot and westernized Chinese stands (3 figs) are 45mm wide, 30mm deep.

Boxer foot stands (3 figs) are 90mm wide, 30mm deep.

Mounted stands (2 figs) have the same frontages as their respective foot but are 50-60mm deep.

All artillery is mounted with a 60mm frontage, 70mm+/- depth.

Nations, Units, and figure choice

Old Glory (OG) has all the figures we need. I have read several reviews and believe that the figures will be very good - indeed, I have several packs from the range and like them a lot.

(Since the initial writing of this project plan, we have received all the figures and a VERY pleased. They are well sculpted and cleanly cast. The Chinese pole arms pack is superb, but the weapons are vulnerable to wargames handling and should be replaced with wire weapons.)


Ideally, to offer a range of scenario possibilities we will need 15 sword and spear Boxer (Bannermen, Braves etc.) units, 2 units of rifle armed Boxers et al, 5 rifle armed Imperial Chinese infantry (Braves etc.), 2 or 3 units of Tiger Men, 1 or 2 mounted units (the Boxers were short of horse units and had to rely on a few irregulars), and 3 Imperial artillery pieces.

With 12 figures per unit, every 2 OG bags (30 figs each) generate 5 units. This means the following breakdown of OG codes:









I might get dead and wounded Chinese to jazz-up the regular bases and also for use as casualty markers (CBC-08 and 09).


For most of the Imperial contingents we will only need a couple of units. With an OG bag of 30 figs I have created 2 units of 12 and used the remaining 6 figs to form a unit in skirmish order on wide bases with fewer figs, of course. This is not actually necessary since formed bases are usually separated for skirmish order, but it makes use of the extra figs. Occasionally, the foot figs are uniformed in a similar manner to the horse - the Russians and Japanese are like this. In this case, I use the extra figs to make a dismounted unit for the cavalry (again in skirmish order).

The Japanese and Russians contributed the largest contingents. This is reflected in the OG range which includes all arms for these two powers. Others are more limited in their choices.


The Japanese could be represented by a large force. A contingent similar in size to my Russians would be useful: 4 infantry units, 1 cavalry (with dismounts - infantry figs), and 3 guns. 2 OG infantry bags, 1 cavalry bag, and 1 artillery crew bag.


Marines and Chasseurs d'afrique are the units that should be represented. One OG bag of each.


I have all the Indian troops we need for the British contingent. However, OG produce a Marine pack which I don't have. One OG bag - two units is all we need....


Bersagliere are the ones we need. Nice uniforms with feathers on the helmet. One OG bag.


The Americans had a substantial infantry force, but it's the Marines that most people want to represent. One OG bag will do.

Russians and Germans:

I have them.


Many sailors were used to supplement the regular army forces. Many were used to man artillery and Mgs. OG makes sailors and if your contingent lacks specific artillery/mg units, you could use the sailors. Apparently the Austrian Sailor pack is fantastic. There is a generic naval artillery crew pack.

OG codes and quantities:








French mounted unit from the Sons of the Desert Range:


There is a range of artillery choices, however, I have plenty of British and Russian artillery to cover our needs. Only the Japanese should seriously consider getting field pieces. Machine guns were also used in considerable numbers; the Nordenfeldt was certainly used.

Do remember that one of the fun and very realistic aspects of the conflict was the competition between Imperial powers to achieve objectives and glory. In the final attack on Peking, the Russians and Japanese were highly competitive, passing each other on the march, attacking objectives set for their allies, and being generally bloody-minded. With this in mind, you might want to have a strong enough contingent not only to beat the Boxers but to out do your allies.

Organizing and Painting the Chinese forces by Leon Kriser

The main uniform of the Chinese soldier was a square or round piece of cloth sewn on the front and back of the

jacket or surcoat on which was painted, in Chinese letters, the man's name, rank and unit, after that anything


There were five types of soldiers during this period Bannermen, New Formations, the Army of the Green Flag, Braves and the Boxers. In terms of actual fighting initially only Boxers were involved, later supplemented with Bannermen and then other Imperial Chinese troops - few, if any, westernized troops.

Bannermen were the Manchu descendants of the horse archers that over ran China in the 1600s, under the command of the Emperor, or Empress. All Manchu males could draw free rations from the Monarch in return they were supposed to serve in the army, armed with traditional martial arts weapons or a matchlock, they had been the mainstay of Chinese armies for over two hundred years. The Bannermen take their name from the banner that each of the eight armies had. Their uniform comprised a jacket or surcoat, almost always blue, edged in a contrasting colour, normally white, red or yellow. Trousers were either blue or white and could be long or come to the knee and worn with socks. Headdress was usually the flat topped silk Mandarin hat which only Manchus, or people given honorary Manchu status, could wear, but turbans and bamboo hats were common to.

The Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 exposed the weakness of them in the face of modern technology so some generals were given permission to raise the New Formations, troops that were modelled on the West's armies. Their uniforms were usually a blue jacket, Western or Chinese style, and long baggy trousers with some sort of contrasting colour trim for the jacket, usually on the cuffs and collar. They were organised into division sized armies, around 7 to 10 thousand men, composed of infantry, cavalry, artillery and engineers, sporting grandiose sounding names, The Self Strengthening Army and the Tenacious Army, trained and equipped on Western lines, were the best troops China possessed. It seems that few if any of these westernized troops were used in the Rebellion.

The Army of the Green Flag was composed of Chinese ( authors note the northern Manchus, including the Imperial family, did not consider themselves to be Chinese, as we think of them today, and divided their armies into national units eg. the "home army" of Manchus, the southern Chinese army and the foreign armies such as the Mongol troops). The Green Flag were military gendarmes who kept the peace in the provinces, in times of war they were used to back up the Bannermen, but spent most of their time fighting bandits. They were armed and equipped the same as the Bannermen.

Braves were official, but privately run, militias under the command of government officials, from provincial governors to small bureaucrats, generals and prominent individuals that were used to back up the Imperial forces in time of trouble whether foreign invasions, bandit suppression or internal rebellions. Their weapons could run the gauntlet from sword and spear to the most up to date weapons available. Their uniforms varied greatly but usually consisted of a long brightly coloured robe with wide stripes of contrasting trim around it with writing on it with His name, position and employer. If it was composed of Manchus the silk hat would be worn otherwise the turban and bamboo hat.

General Tung's braves carried red flags with Tung in Chinese letters in gold, and red flags with a green border.

The Boxers were peasants from northern China, boatmen and carters thrown out of work by the railroads, farmers driven from their fields by drought and floods, and a good number of just bandits. They wore the ordinary peasant costume of blue or white jacket and trousers, as the rebellion took place in June, July and August, white would probably have been more common, but there's certainly a lot of references to blue also. They adorned themselves with various items of red, red being the colour of good luck in China, turbans, sashes, aprons, ribbons tied around the wrists and ankles, red streamers tied to the handles of swords and pole-arms or just letters, in Chinese, painted in red on their clothes. Yellow is also mentioned a lot, sometimes for leaders and other times in place of red. Use yellow as trim colour but rarely as the main clothing colour; it was the imperial household colour and limited to themselves and their troops. Tigermen were household troops.

At the start of the rebellion there was an attempt to form the Boxers into a national militia under the command of the Imperial Court, wearing black jackets and trousers with red turbans and sashes, but the rebellion was crushed before anything was done.

International Relief Expedition

International Relief Expedition

Austria-Hungary: 58 men
France: 800 men
Germany: 200 men
Great Britain: 3,000 men
Italy: 53 men
Japan: 10,000 men
Russia: 4,000 men
United States: 2,000 men
Total: 20,111 men
Commander: General Alfred Gaselee
Artillery: Seventy field pieces and machine guns

International Units to Arrive in China, June-September 1900


Four Hundred Sailors from Austrian Squadron of Ships


1/9th Regiment of Marine Infantry
1/11th Regiment of Marine Infantry
2/11th Regiment of Marine Infantry
Annamite Tirailleur Regiment
Tonkinese Tirailleur Regiment
Algerian Turcos
Chasseurs d'Afrique
12th Battery, Indo-China Artillery Regiment (six 80mm Mountain guns)
13th Battery, Indo-China Artillery Regiment (six 80mm Mountain guns)


German East Asia Brigade

1st Infantry Brigade

1st Infantry Regiment
2nd Infantry Regiment

2nd Infantry Brigade

3rd Infantry Regiment
4th Infantry Regiment

Uhlan Regiment
Artillery Regiment
Pioneer Battalion

Great Britain

Indian Expeditionary Force

First Infantry Brigade

1st Sikh Infantry
7th Bengal Infantry
24th Punjab Infantry
26th Bombay Infantry

Second Infantry Brigade

2nd Bengal Infantry
1/4th Gurkha Rifles
30th Bombay Infantry

Divisional Troops

12th Battery, Royal Artillery
1st Bengal Lancers
1st Madras Pioneers
No. 2 Co., Bombay Sappers and Miners
No. 3 Co., Madras Sappers and Miners
No. 4 Co., Bengal Sappers and Miners

Line of Communication Troops

3rd Madras Infantry
22nd Bombay Infantry

Troops to Arrive Later

6th Burma Battalion
Hong Kong Regiment
6th Jat Infantry
7th Rajput Infantry
24th Bombay Infantry
24th Baluchistan Infantry
26th Baluchistan Infantry
Hyderabad Lancers
3rd Bombay Lancers
16th Bengal Lancers
Hong Kong Artillery
34th Madras Pioneers


24th Line Regiment
Bersaglieri Battalion
Machine-Gun Battery
Volunteers from the Alpini


Eight Infantry Regiments (Formed into two divisions)
Two Cavalry Regiments
Two Field Artillery Regiments
Two Battalions of Engineers
Two Battalions of Commissariat


Twelve Regiments of East Siberian Rifles
Twelve Battalions of East Siberian Infantry
Fourteen East Siberian Artillery Batteries
Six Regiments of Cossacks
Primorski Dragoon Regiment

United States of America

Infantry Forces (9,769 men)

1st Infantry Regiment
2nd Infantry Regiment
4th Infantry Regiment
5th Infantry Regiment
8th Infantry Regiment
9th Infantry Regiment
14th Infantry Regiment
24th Infantry Regiment
25th Infantry Regiment
Provinsial Marine Battalion

Cavalry Forces (3,028 men)

1st Cavalry Regiment
3rd Cavalry Regiment
6th Cavalry Regiment
9th Cavalry Regiment

Artillery Forces (1,009 men)

6th Artillery Regiment
7th Artillery Regiment

Not all these forces served in the International Relief of Peking on August 14, 1900, many of the units arrived later and helped in mopping up operations

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