BY JINGO - Colonial History & Wargames Page "Tactics favour the regular army while strategy favours the enemy - the object is therefore to fight, not to manoeuvre."
C.E. Callwell "Small Wars, Their Principles and Practice" 1896

They Don't Like It Up 'Em

Colonial Campaign Rules

by Martin Porter

These rules are designed to recreate campaigns in the colonial era 1860 to 1914, although they can also be used for such later theatres as The Arab Revolt and interwar colonial conflicts in Morocco and the Northwest Frontier of India. They have been accumulated over the years to accompany my rules for tabletop battles, which I won't print as they have a more than passing resemblance to rules by a certain Mr Richard Brookes, which have appeared in various journals!

I use these rules as a 'default setting' when I don't have detailed information about the actual movement rates, supply requirements etc of the campaign I am fighting. Don't let these rules stop you fighting your wars the way you want to! If you know that the Suakin to Berber railway can support two divisions, or if you only want two divisions in you campaign, then two divisions is what the railway can support.

These rules are designed for gamers who like to get stuck into their battles but enjoy the campaign elements that colonial wars offer so easily. As Shakespeare didn't say "the battle's the thing", so whilst not completely ignoring problems of supply and sanitation don't spend too long on map moves but march on, join bravely and let to it pell-mell.

Regular infantry are generally organised into Companies of 100 men. Several Companies form a Battalion that averages 600 men. The Battalion will have transport consisting of 50 mules, 2 wagons or equivalent, that carries extra ammunition and entrenching tools.

Regular cavalry are usually organised into Regiments of 400 men.

Irregulars will generally form bodies equivalent in size to a Battalion.

Regulars: It takes 1 to 3 days for troops in barracks or disembarking from troopships to mobilise.

Irregulars: Up to a month to mobilise 10% of a tribe for war.

Transport ships cover 150 miles a day and warships 250 miles.
Despatch vessels carry messages at 400 miles a day.

2000 men require 3000 tons of shipping
1,000 cavalry require 8,000 tons
An artillery battery requires 1000 tons
Transport ships average 2000 to 4000 tons

For every 1000 tons of her displacement a warship can disembark:
50 sailors
10 marines
A 9pdr gun, machine gun or pair of rocket tubes.

Regular units carry two days rations on them, irregulars four days.
British Indian Armies have as many camp followers as combatants, who also need to be fed.

Irregular armies will draw supplies from the local area.
Roll d6 per day and total score. 20 means that local food supplies have been exhausted move, disperse or starve!

Regular armies use units of Supply, (which weigh 40 tons) and are carried by units of Transport.
A unit of Transport is:

Animals and humans may be overloaded by up to 50% but suffer increased sickness.
A unit of Supply lasts: 10 weeks for 1 Battalion of regular infantry
1000 irregulars or camp followers
5 weeks for 1 unit of animal Transport
4 weeks for 1 Regiment of cavalry

A 6-gun artillery battery counts as 1/4 battalion of infantry and 1/4 unit of animal Transport.

If no fresh water is available this too must be carried by Transport.
A unit of Water lasts: 2 weeks for 1 Battalion of regular infantry
1000 irregulars or camp followers
1 week for 1 regiment of cavalry

Unless a Flying Column the force will have supply convoys operating between it and base.

The convoys shuttle backwards and forwards between the troops and their base at normal movement rates. In hostile territory they may need to be guarded.

The efficiency of animal transport is reduced as the supply lines lengthen, due to the animals eating the supplies before they arrive.

Every day that the convoy is travelling, except the first and the last, the animals eat 3% of the supplies.


Move per day (miles)
Trains 300
Ox, Elephant and Bullock drawn vehicles 2dice
River Steamers 12dice +/- 10 for current
Half speed towing two boats
Cavalry and Pack Horses 4dice
Mules, Camels & Horse drawn vehicles 4dice
Zulus 4dice
All other 3dice

The dice use should be average dice, but as I don't have enough I use d6s and roll again for silly results.

Transport and wheeled artillery must keep to marked tracks except in desert, veldt or steppes.
Units will be columns two figures wide unless in open terrain.

Foot, Mules and Horses can forced march and double move.
Halve movement in jungle and mountains
Wheeled transport moves 20 miles a day on roads; other units add an extra dice

Advancing through mountain passes by 'crowning the heights' limits movement to 5 miles a day


Length of road in column of march Camping area needed
Infantry Battalion 250 yds 15,000 sq yds
Cavalry Regiment 750 yds 40,000 sq yds
1000 animals 1000 yds 40,000 sq yds
5 ox wagons 300 yds 3,000 sq yds
Artillery battery 400 yds 20,000 sq yds

Transport will usually march four animals or vehicles abreast.

Regulars will throw out 10% of their numbers as piquets when halted or as flank guards on the march

Mounted messengers and runners move at forced march speed.
Telegraph lines provide instant communication, but are easily cut by the enemy.
A heliograph on high ground in good weather can signal 40 miles in line-of-sight.

Once a month roll d6 for every tenth figure. A 6 or more means they are sick.
If the first dice roll for any camp is 9 or more you get disease.
If you already have disease it clears on a 5 or less.
Modify dice roll by: + 4 Weather is hot and humid
+ 2 Weather is hot and dry or snow
+ 1 Troops changed climate in last 3 months
Overcrowded camp
No shelter
Under siege
On half rations
- 1 Natives Troops in camp and not doing anything
Roll twice if troops:
Are forced marching unless they rested previous day

Roll for every second figure if out of food
Troops that fall sick spend the month inactive.
If you have disease then half of all sick cases die or are invalided home

If out of water morale collapses after three days and all sick die.

If out of food roll d6 per day and total scores. For every 20 points morale drops by one. Troops surrender when morale reaches zero.

Also roll for every tenth animal. A 6 or more means it dies.
Modify dice roll by: + 2 If weather is hot and humid
+ 1 If weather is hot and dry or snow
Animals are underfed or overworked
Changed climate in the last 3 months
- 1 Inactive
- 1 For mules

It takes 2 hours for cavalry to search a 25 square mile area, infantry take 10 hours.
Balloons can see troops in the open 5 miles away, but can be seen themselves from 10 miles away.

Work is carried out either by engineers (specially skilled troops) pioneers (units raised primarily as labourers) or other troops.

The following take 50 men all day.
Men may do half a day's work after a day's march (unless forced marching).
Pioneers carry their own tools. Other troops have theirs in Battalion transport.
Work requiring engineers: Dig 5 yds of mine or counter mine
Lay 2 miles of telegraph line
Prepare bridge for demolition

Work that can be done by anyone: Repair a breech to weak wall standard (if materials available)
Erect 150 yds of palisade, zariba, sangar (if materials available)
Dig 100 yds of trench or sap
Make gabions to emplace one artillery battery
Construct 10 yds of a pontoon or raft
Load or unload 30 tons of stores
Lay 1/40th of a mile of narrow gauge railway line
Lay 1/80th of a mile of broad gauge railway

Except for mining, the tasks may be carried out by as many men as can be brought to contact.

Other tasks:
Loophole a building 3 turns for a figure with arme blanche
Chop down a tree 1 turn for two pioneers
Blow open a door 1 turn for 2 engineers to lay charges
1 turn for a figure to light fuse

There are three ways to conduct a siege.
Blockade and see who succumbs first to starvation, thirst or disease
Reduce the defences by mining and bombardment
Directly assault the position with ladders and explosives by fighting a tabletop battle

Forts will have food to feed their garrison for 6 months on full rations.
Towns have food for the full population for 1 3 months. Scouring the surrounding area for food and kicking out unwanted citizens - a process that takes a month, can double this.
Forts and towns will have their own water supply, and if in the desert this may be the only water source around.

This is not possible if a mote or deep ditch surrounds defences.
The mine must be started at least 100 yds away from the defences.
If the defenders have engineers they can dig a counter-mine, if the two meet a hand-to-hand combat ensues with the victors collapsing the other mine.
Once finished the mine can be filled with explosives with a 1 in 6 chance they don't go off.
One ton of gunpowder blows a 25-yd hole in the wall.

Bombardment of the interior of a fort by howitzer or mortar takes place at 1/6th of the normal rate of fire. Use normal rules except that the point of impact of the shell is determined randomly.

To breach or destroy the defences fire as at a normal close order target.
Doors are destroyed by: 1 hit by shot or shell over 12 pdr
Wooden buildings are destroyed by: 1 hit by shot or shell 16 pdr
Gates or weak walls are breached by: 1 hit by shot or shell over 49 pdr
2 hits by shot over 33 pdr
5 hits by shot over 16 pdr

Breaching a strong stone wall requires between 5000 and 20,000 shots at less than 300 yds by a gun over 16 pdr.

However you fight your campaigns a battle should be the end result.

Use your own rules, but here are a few more points to consider if fighting a campaign.
In my rules all troops have a 'tactical rating' (TR) which varies from 2 for the dullest Russian conscript through to 4 for a wily Pathan, with 3 being the average.

Separate columns of troops advancing to battle out of sight must roll to see if they arrive as planned.

On the turn the troops are due to arrive on table roll d6 and compare with TR
Modify the dice roll by - 1 If less than 2 miles from friends
+ 1 If more than 4 miles from friends
No officer with the unit

For every point above modified TR they arrive d6 turns late.
If the modified dice roll is 6 or more they are hopelessly lost and on a completely different battlefield!

When the troops arrive roll again to see if they are in the right place.
For every point above modified TR they deviate 2d6" to the left or right

Troops usually have 50 rounds on them for their weapons.

In my rules a turn last 10 minutes and most weapons fire 10 rounds per turn.

The battle is over when one side has no troops left on the table that aren't broken, wounded or prisoners.

Victors with higher movement rates than enemy units may pursue, unless irregular in which case they loot.
In hostile territory civilians may also turn out to attack the defeated troops.
Each arme blanche armed cavalry figure kills two enemy figures.
Other cavalry and all infantry kill one figure.

One third of casualties are dead, half lightly wounded and the rest seriously wounded.
Defeated troops who are seriously wounded die on the battlefield, lightly wounded may be taken prisoner (if the enemy are so inclined).
Routed irregulars who survive go home.
Routed regulars will re-group back at base but their morale is reduced by one level.
Wounded rejoin the ranks after three months. Maimed are invalided home.

Colonial wars are rarely decisive. A victory by the Imperial forces may be the prelude to years of guerrilla warfare, whilst a native victory is usually only temporary as the Imperial forces eventually return in greater strength.

Possible campaign objectives for the Imperial forces in order of importance are:

Failure to achieve all three will mean the enemy will rise again.

For the natives the objective is to hold out as long as possible, and to a least maintain honour by an Adowa or Isandhlwana style victory, however pyhrric it may turn out to be.


Motor vehicles Move 60 miles a day on roads
Convoys require 25 yds between vehicles (doubled on hills)
Aircraft Use for scouting only

The two books I used most in compiling these rules are:

'Battle in Africa' by Howard Whitehouse (Fieldbooks, Mansfield, 1987)

'The World War One Source Book' by Philip J. Haythornthwaite (Arms and Armour Press, London, 1992)

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