EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Rattle of Dice (Updated)

I have decided to go for a single version of Hearts of Tin with period supplements and the reduced ranges/movement of the current version, a choice of Orders or Control chart and the simpler figure friendly combat & morale version worked on yesterday. In the meantime, for those who were interested, here is the 2 page version of Rattle of Dice that I played with this week.

**12 July 2013 Having played a game as published here, I realized that there are 2 mistakes and a few omissions.   All changes are in red. Thanks to Alfront for the formation change.
***29 Apr 2014 added superior firepower modifier  for when 1 side is better armed and Shaken rule added. Melee numbers modified.

The Rattle of Dice
 A Game for Toy Soldiers
11 Jun 2013 Amended 29 April 2014


Generals (Army or Brigade Commanders). One General is the Army Commander. The rest are Brigade Generals who only affect the units assigned to their command.Units are normally assigned to Brigade Generals otherwise they are only commanded by the General. Units may be classed as Elite, Regular, Irregular or Militia.

Units normally must stay together but figures may be detached to occupy a terrain feature or to perform a special task such as scouting terrain or to act as a skirmish screen. Infantry may deploy as skirmishers in a single rank with a space between figures or in a column 2 or 3 wide and 3 or 4 deep, or deployed 2 deep representing either a dispersed firing line with supports or a unit massed behind cover. (Note: These rules are intended for the 2nd half of the 19th Century but may easily be adapted for slightly earlier or later periods.)


Roll for initiative each turn, high score chooses to go first or second. Ties repeat last turn’s sequence. +1 if there is an observer in a balloon or other observation point with a signals team by the general
v      The 1st player units move including charges OR shoot OR rally. Charge targets may counter charge if mounted cavalry.
v      Resolve melee between units in contact.
v      The 2nd player units move including charges OR shoot OR rally. Charge targets may counter charge if mounted cavalry.
v      Resolve melee between units in contact.


Detached units.
If not within 12” and sight of General at the start of a turn, must roll 3+ to move, Elite +1, Militia/Irregular -1

v      Infantry/Foot Artillery maximum 12”
v      Cavalry/Horse Artillery maximum 18”
v      General 24”
v      Wagons 6”
v      Boats move 18” plus or minus 3” for the current or tide. It takes a 1/2 move to embark or disembark from a boat or train and form up
v      Steam Engines move 18” by rail or 6” cross country if built for it. If moving cross country roll as if detached. If moving by rail the train may only accelerate or decelerate by 9” in a turn. If it hits an obstacle without being able to stop, it will crash roll for 1 die for each 4 figures with a score of 5,6 indicating one casualty.

v      Road Bonus x2 if in column facing direction of movement.
v      Move half speed if moving backwards or sideways while facing the enemy.
v      Move half speed over obstacles and terrain features that are passable except for skirmishers and Irregulars who pay no penalty. 
v      It takes 1/2 turn to change formation including a change of direction.
Cavalry and artillery may not enter woods or into a town.
v      Artillery must be limbered to move and deployed to shoot. It may limber then move or may move then deploy. It may not do both in one turn. Machine guns may move 6” without limbering.
v      Urging On.  A General may move up to 12” to join a unit and add 1d6 inches to its move but he must stay with them until the next move phase.

A unit that charges must be facing the target. Cavalry may counter charge up to 1/2 way.

There must be a clear line of sight to the target which must be within a 90 degree arc centered directly ahead to where the target is at the time of firing. Artillery must be deployed.
v      Shooting and Melee. Units in contact can not shoot or be shot at except as laid out under Defensive Fire in melee.
v      Range: Muskets 6", Rifles 12”, MG 24”, Artillery 36”, spears are treated as melee weapons.
v      Dice: Roll 1 die per 4 infantry/dismounted cavalry or 2 gunners. Count remainders of 1/2 or more.
v      Effect: Each 5,6 is 1 hit.
v      Difficult targets: -1 vs cover, skirmishers, cavalry or artillery
v      Vulnerable targets: +1 vs column or if enfilading
v      Superior Firepower: +1 (sharpshooters, Cannister (12") or superior weapons)
v      Overhead Fire. Artillery on a hill, and rockets any where, may fire over troops on the flat if there is a gap of 6” in front of the gun and in front of the target.

Melee is resolved between units in contact. It represents very close range fire as well as attempts to close with cold steel.

v      Who: Count all of figures in contact or touching a figure in contact plus 1/2 of the 3rd & 4th rank of infantry behind a figure in contact.
v      Dice: Infantry, dismounted cavalry and artillery 1 die per 4 figures, except that artillery using defensive fire rolls 1 die per 2 crew. Cavalry 1 die per 2 figures. Count remainders of 1/2 or more. Except for defensive fire, all melee dice are rolled and take effect simultaneously.
v      Defensive Fire. Infantry or artillery that have been charged from the front may roll their melee dice first and remove hits from the enemy. Units within 6” of the charging unit may shoot out of turn at the charging unit if they have a line of fire.
v      Evade. Cavalry and light infantry skirmishers that have been charged from the front may turn and retreat a full move instead of fighting in melee but must rally as if they had been defeated.
v      Effect: Each 5,6 is a hit.
v      Difficult target: -1 if fighting an enemy in cover, or if charging over an obstacle or if using defensive fire vs cavalry
v      Charge Bonus +1 if charging this turn 
, Defensive Fire Bonus +1 if Superior firepower using defensive fire.
v      Troop Quality: +1 if Elite, -1 if Militia or Irregular
v      Result: If a side takes more hits from reaction fire and melee than it inflicted then it is defeated. A defeated unit that was in melee contact must immediately turn and retreat a full move, passing through any friends unless stopped by a blocked defile but stopping at the board edge. It must try to rally on its next move. If neither side retreats the melee will continue next turn with neither side counting as charging unless one side retreats during movement.

v            Rally. A unit which was defeated in melee must attempt to rally on its next move. During the movement phase roll 1 die. On a score of 4, 5 or 6 it rallies, may face the enemy and may act normally next turn. On a score of 1,2 or 3 it retreats a full move and must rally again next turn. If it reaches the board edge it will leave and may not return. +1 Elite, -1 Militia. +1 joined by general or a band.
v      Steady Men! A general may join a unit which took hits from shooting or melee and try to cancel one hit by rolling 1 die. A score of 4,5,6 cancels 1 hit, 2,3 has no effect, 1 indicates the general has been hit and is removed from the game.
v      Rally Round The Flag. An infantry unit that contains a colour bearer can try and steady the men in the same way. When a unit takes one or more hits from shooting or melee the player may roll 1 die. If the result is 4,5 or 6  1 hit is cancelled, 2,3 has no effect, on a 1 the standard bearer is hit and some one else has to grab the flag (take 1 figure off). If the unit is defeated in melee the unit must try to rally around the flag if it has one but if a 1 is rolled the enemy captures the flag. Cavalry and light infantry may not use this rule.

SAPPERS. A party of 4 pioneers may do 1d6 amount of work each turn if not in melee. The amount of work for special tasks can be set by the GM otherwise 6 pts are required to fortify their front, lay a demolition charge or build 1 section of pontoon bridge. When a demolition charge is blown roll 1 d6 per charge. 6 pts will breach a village, 18 pts will blow a bridge.


  1. Look concise and simple enough , will be interested to try them out .

    1. I'll look forward to reading about it if you do. ( I have thick skin btw)


  2. Hi Ross,
    Another interesting set of rules, nice and simple. Thanks.
    Question on melee results: if an attacker takes 1 hit from response fire and 1 hit from melee, and inflicts 2 hits on the defender via melee, the rules as written would cause the defender to lose -- he took more hits from response fire + melee (2) than he inflicted in melee (1). Is that the intent, or should response fire + melee be on both sides of the equation, causing a draw/continuation in this example?

    Just keeping you on your toes. :)
    Thanks and regards.

    1. Ah thanks John,old habits. I used to decide melees unit by unit which would give just the result you mention. I do it by "side" now rather than by unit which can also be messy or odd at times but generally feels more natural. So that should say the side that takes more hits but only units that were in melee would be affected, not those only providing fire support.

      Keep it coming!

  3. I can derive some of this from the photos, but can you give us a rundown of the number of figures per unit you envision, Ross? Thanks!

  4. Will, Usually between 12 and 20 for line infantry, 1/2 that for cavalry and light infantry. I usually go for single guns with 4 crew each as units but occasionally 2 guns. I usually field a Brigade commander for every 2 to 4 units. The more units in play, the bigger the brigade size.

  5. Thanks Ross. Very helpful indeed.

  6. Going to have to find some table time to experiment.

  7. Ross,
    I noticed that when charging you indicate that a unit must be facing the enemy. Does that mean that the charger must also see the enemy? I have been on some rolling ground where I actually wa facing my companions but could not actually see them.
    BTW, nice effort for an easy to follow rules system. If possible these wuill receive a play test in the next couple of weeks.
    A/K/A The Celtic Curmudgeon

    1. Thanks Jerry. Lots of short cuts to get to 2 pages. I usually play that the unit must see the charge target. Ross

  8. Hi Ross,

    I'm madly painting British and French colonial toy soldiers in 54mm with an eye to trying these rules and others that are similar (Featherstone's from War Games, etc.). So far it's all been about organizing my toy soldiers into units in plastic baggies and trimming up a couple of units to get them ready for paint, but I'm getting there.

    Two questions for you, please.

    1) unless I missed it, there is no movement bonus for charging. The charging requirements and condition appear to be there to define when units qualify for the Melee bonus. Is that correct?

    2) when figuring out which figures count in Melee, you say "Count all of figures in contact or touching a figure in contact plus 1/2 of the 2nd & 3rd rank of infantry behind a figure in contact." Suppose you have two units in Melee contact. One has a frontage of four figures and is three ranks deep. The other has a frontage of six figures (in contact so as to "overlap" the enemy by one figure on each side) and is three ranks deep. Figuring the number of figures to count for the smaller unit seems straightforward. Four (front rank), plus four more (half of the second and third ranks, as all of the front rankers are in contact).

    So far, so good. For the larger unit, I count it as six (front rank figures in contact (4) plus the two "flankers" who are touching a (friendly) figure in contact), plus four (half each of the second and third rank figures behind a front rank figure in contact...of which there are the four middle figures in the front rank).

    Does that mesh with how you count them up?

    Of course, I realize all that matters is finding a consistent system that works for me, but I'd like to try these rules "as written" (and intended) before tweaking them for my own uses :-)



  9. Hi Will, good timing as I tried these out myself today, "as written". Didn't take long to notice several errors and omissions for which I apologise but one makes point 2 clearer I think.

    1) Correct. There is no movement bonus and increase in speed being counter balanced by time spent fighting. Any one who moved into contact is charging. The restrictions are to prevent units from turning around and charging in the same turn.

    2) This was a typo. It was supposed to read 1/2 of the 3rd and 4th rank behind figures in contact as the 2nd rank counts as in contact with figures in contact. So in your example the small unit would count 10 figures worth 3 dice. I normally count corner to corner contact or assume 1 figure on each side will lap around far enough to contact if using round bases so I would count 6 figures in contact for the large unit + 6 touching in the 2nd rank plus 1/2 the 3rd rank for a total of 15 or 4 dice.(the more than 1/2 rather than 1/2 or more was a momentary mental glitch)

    I started working on an update as soon as the game was over and its now posted.