Bloodybacks version 7 (Aug 2019)

The version 7 rules were last amended in May 2021. At the time of writing (February 2022) I am working on version 8. This is likely to see the following changes that I am currently playtesting:
  • Units being rated for "size" on a 1 - 6 scale rather than counting individual figures and kills
  • Shooting and combat will cause fewer "kills", but those that are scored will reduce unit strength by a whole point (so by 25% for a size 4 unit, as an example)
  • Because of these changes, disruption points will be added less frequently or in smaller numbers so will be made harder to rally-off
  • Artillery shooting may need reworking to bring it in line with the above
  • Amend melee rules to deal better with mismatched/overwhelming results that will not disrupt the attacker to quite the same degree
I will be retaining the orders system, unit ratings, unit density, etc. The above really are just tweaks to aid streamlining. Once I'm relatively happy with things I'll post version 8 on the blog alongside version 7 rather than just overwriting and leave v7 available for a while.
I'm still considering ways to emphasise the importance of commanders, particularly the CinC as part of this update process. This will probably link to the revising of the rally process and possibly a "follow me" type order - with due increase in personal risk!

(Last amended 5 May 2021)

These rules being are a set of my own devising. I have been writing and testing rules for the AWI for many years, using the “Bloodybacks” title despite significant shifts in design. One version was published in Wargames Illustrated #188 (May 2003) but the current rules bear little resemblance to those other than the basing and unit organisation. The rules are intended for games played in a friendly manner. They would not suit competitive play.
Units are organised on a ratio of one figure representing 10 actual men, and one model gun representing two actual pieces. The ground scale is approximately 12” representing 100 yards.
A game turn equates to around 5 minutes of real time.
The most idiosyncratic aspect of the rules is unit density. I feel this helps to model some of the critical differences in doctrine between different forces engaged in the war. The “standard” density is “6”, indicated by 6 figures mounted on a 60mm wide base. Alternatively five figures on a 50mm frontage or 4 on a 40mm frontage represent the same density of “6”. This density typically represents men formed shoulder-to-shoulder in two ranks. The same density is used for cavalry mounted as 3 horses and riders on a 60mm frontage (or two on 40mm)
Units in “loose files” are given a density of 5. I usually model this as 5 figures on a 60mm frontage or 4 on 50mm. This is used for the majority of British units from 1776 until close to the end of the war, when formations might have tightened up again.
Where units adopted the close order seen on the continent; shoulder-to-shoulder in three or more ranks, a density of 7 is used. I use this for most Hessian and French units, basing 6 infantry on a 50mm frontage.
Units who are dispersed/skirmishing have a density of 3. For those accustomed to Napoleonic wargaming, please note that the AWI did not feature “skirmish screens”, but units were dispersed at times with order such as “to trees”.
Units may reduce their density by separating their bases to an appropriate distance. Density can never be lower than 3 however.
Both units and commanders are rated for their quality in Bloodybacks. Along with unit density, this is critical to the mechanisms of the game.
In both cases, quality is rated on a scale of 1 (worst) to 5 (best).
Command quality represents the ability of a commander and his staff to inspire and influence the units under his command. Most “average” commanders should have a command quality of 3. If above average use 4 and below average use 2. Reserve the extreme ratings for absolute incompetents or truly heroic tactical geniuses.
Unit quality represents the skill and staying-power of a unit. Quality 1 represents levy units with little or no training, Quality 2 represents the majority of trained militia. Quality three represents second-line regular troops or experienced militia. Quality 4 is for first-line regulars and Quality 5 is for the highest quality, experienced units (not those merely with a high opinion of themselves).
The combination of high quality commanders and units will create powerful effects on the battlefield. On the other hand, placing levy and militia in the command of a nincompoop is likely to result in a short-lived battlefield performance.
Activating Units
To activate a unit, a “hand” of 12-sided dice is rolled. This begins with six dice, but one is removed for every disruption point currently suffered by the unit (maximum of three).
To achieve a success each die rolled must score equal or below the total of its quality and its commander’s quality if the commander is within 18 inches. If the commander is more distant then the score needed is the unit’s quality alone.
One success earns one action, three successes earn two actions and if all six dice succeed then unit may perfom three actions. Actions are MOVE, SHOOT, RALLY and RESUPPLY.

A unit that shoots will roll a number of 12-sided dice.
(Section amended May 2021) Units armed with muskets, rifles or carbines roll 1 d12 for every 6 figures. The basic score needed to hit is the target unit density or lower. At long range apply a +2 modifier to each die roll. Further modifiers can be added for cover. A roll of “1” is always a hit. 

Close range
Long range

Artillery sections roll between one and four dice depending on calibre and range:

4 d12
3 d12
2 d12
1 d12
Ammunition type
Light Gun
Field Gun
Heavy Gun

Those accustomed to other rules might find these ranges rather long, however they do correspond to realistic ranges at our chosen ground scale and emphasise the value of artillery in the 18thCentury. They are prevented from being “wonder weapons” by limiting their ammunition supply.

Roll the determined number of dice, needing to score equal to or under the target’s density to achieve hits. Units in buildings or fortifications assume a density of 4.

(Additional rule 20/05/2020: when units shoot, mark them with cotton wool, etc to represent smoke. The smoke stays in place until the unit spends a turn in which it doesn’t shoot, or if the unit moves. If both the shooter and the target are obscured by smoke, reduce target density by one level to a minimum of three)

If using more than one action to shoot, any dice may be rerolled for each extra action.
Artillery who roll any “12” results when rolling to hit become low on the type of ammunition being used (cannister or roundshot) and cannot use that type of ammunition again, unless they are resupplied.
Artillery can opt to shoot with fewer dice than allowed, in order to reduce the chance of exhausting their ammunition (e.g. roll 1d12 per gun rather than 2d12)

For each hit against a unit apply the following and ignore the table from previous versions (amended May 2021):
The first hit on a unit in each turn increases its disruption by one, to a maximum of three. If a unit already has three disruption then the first hit is a kill instead. All other hits in the turn are kills. 
Each kill may also cause additional disruption (up to the maximum of three per unit). For each kill roll 1d6. A disruption is inflicted if the roll is greater than the unit size divided by 6. This is currently a work in progress so sounds more fiddly than it is in practice. It is intended to balance firefights so regardless of unit size there is a similar degree of degradation of order. Otherwise two large units will give very different results to a musket duel between two smaller units. 


For each movement action, a unit can move the distance shown below. The exception is unlimbered artillery, who can only move once per turn.
Infantry in column move 12 inches. In any other formation they deduct their density from each 12” move.
Cavalry in column move 18 inches. In any other formation they roll two d12 (amended May 2021) and must move in inches exactly: either score, the combined score or the difference in scores.
Limbered artillery move 12 inches on roads and 8 inches elsewhere
Unlimbered artillery move 6 inches if light and 4 inches if field, but only ONCE per turn. Unlimbered heavy artillery cannot be moved.
If moving in light woods, deduct 2 inches from the movement distance for infantry and artillery, cavalry cannot use the combined score on their movement dice. (NEW)
If moving in heavy woods, deduct  3 inches from the movement distance for infantry and artillery, cavalry must move the lowest of their two movement rolls. (NEW)
Movement is further modified if there is difficult terrain such as steep hills (scenario specific)

Evade (NEW)
Units of density 3 or 4 who are charged by a unit of density 5 or more will (must) evade by moving back one move rather than standing to defend unless they occupy hard cover or fortifications. The attackers can either move their full distance or stop at the point the defenders had occupied. If the attacker’s move takes them into contact with evading defenders, the defenders are destroyed.
Unit may enter into melee as part of a move if they can move far enough to make contact with an enemy unit and are able to close as described below (amended Dec 2019):
To close to melee, roll three d12. The score needed to succeed is double the unit’s quality and as not affected by the commander’s rating. Add an extra d12 for each DP currently on the target unit (amended Dec 2019). Attacking units need 3+ successes to charge home (clarified May 2020).

Units engaged in melee each roll a d12 for every 3 figures in contact or overlapping (including horses).
The number needed to succeed is the sum of the unit’s own quality and density
British with density 5 can add one to their success number to represent closing up as they make contact
The loser (most casualties) takes a morale check modified by the difference in casualties.
All units surviving a melee automatically move to the maximum 3 DPs.

A rally action allows a unit to remove one DP.
Roll 1xD12 for each action for the affected gun. Ammunition is resupplied on a roll of “1”.
Artillery batteries roll for their activations together and each model gun & crew can take different actions (so in a 3-model battery one gun can roll for resupply while the two others shoot).

A unit must check morale if it loses a melee or if it rolls no successes when activating.
Roll three d12, the success number being 2x unit quality in the open, or 5+unit quality in cover:
Unit destroyed/surrenders
Rout, facing away from the enemy
Pushed back 1 move facing the enemy
Carry on

…and that’s it
Well, not really. There’s more in my head and the terrain effects tend to vary from scenario to scenario, but hopefully this quick guide helps you to play some fun games.
I’ll update these from time to time as I try out some tweaks and variations.


  1. Steve, they have changed a bit over the years! I have used the original set on and off for a while, I look forward to trying these!
    many thanks

    1. Hi Mark. Yes, I’ve kept the title and that’s about all. This version plays pretty well though!

  2. Steve,
    Istarted a game with the updated version and....
    is there a turn sequence? Is it I go u go move/shoot/melee or card driven or alternate units activate?. In the chaotic American battlefield I am doing alternate units act as desired and will see how it plays out.

  3. Hi Mark
    I play IGOUGO, one side does all of its activations, then the other side attempt theirs.
    No reason not to try alternatives though.

  4. Brilliant activation , combining commanders ability with unit qualities is very clever.
    I always love keeping units on the board without losing casualties. Do you think there is a way adjust ing the system slightly. Never a super fan of lots of markers etc.
    If units have two actions can they fire twice move twice etc?
    Target priority, restricted movement near enemy units is that all all common sense

  5. Hi Lenny. Yes mostly common sense. Units can move as many times as they have actions, can rally off 1DP for each action they use, etc. There are some exceptions. Cannot fire twice but extra actions allow rerolls (or shooting can get too destructive), unlimbered artillery only move once per turn, etc. Rules are dynamic so get tweaked from time to time. Currently not allowing units to rally off their last DP.

    To be honest you could keep the activation system and import shooting and melee from Black Powder quite easily if you didn’t want figure removal. I like to see some unit erosion though.

  6. Hi Steve, these look like a really interesting set of rules. I'm hoping to give them a try in the next week.

    One query is there an effect on a units activation for the number of casualties taken. I know they lose 1 dice per DP- do they lose any dice for casualties received?

    Otherwise it all looks good.


  7. Hi. No deduction for casualties when activating.


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