Bloodybacks version 8.3 (May 2022)

This is a revised version of Bloodybacks!. Many of the basic principles of version 7 have been carried forward and the main changes are to the shooting and melee processes. These remain quite dice-heavy and make further use of the "hand of dice" concept familiar from the order/morale system in the earlier version. At this stage these are a bit experimental so elements of these are likely to change in the light of playtesting experience. Do remember that this is not a commercial rule set, just an assembly of the mechanisms that I use for gaming the AWI with my own collection. They do not cover all eventualities and a sense of "playing the history" is encouraged.

List of amendments:

22.02.2022: Changed firing mechanism. "To succeed" base number is now the target density rather than a fixed "6". There is then no subsequent density-based second roll. System is more streamlined, reduces dice rolling. Increases number of hits inflicted as original version was under-powered. Playtesting still needed as this may now be slightly overpowered - but experience will tell! Also amended stamina system so a unit with zero stamina is not eliminated unless and until it is forced to take a morale test (e,g, due to lost combat or failed activation roll).

25.02.2022: Amended activation roll results slightly to allow 2 successful rolls to still generate one activation but also permit one rally. Removed the previous combined shoot/rally order with penalties. Amended morale table to allow troops in fortifications to stand in place if they roll 2 successes/1 failure. Further amendment to unit stamina so that unit with zero stamina is destroyed if taking a morale test and any dice fail to achieve the required number (table amended to clarify). Simplified rifle shooting, now always as if at long range (to represent reduced rate of fire) but removed other downgrading when converting shooting successes into hits inflicted. Relatively minor tweaks all round, Helps units with disruption from being stuck in a loop of rallying/taking hits with no opportunity to react.

26.02.2022: Amended morale rule to reduce "to succeed" number by the difference in hits for a unit losing a melee. Amended melee outcomes to inflict hits based on successes in the same way as shooting; makes the worst outcome for melee 3 hits in a turn. Added enfilade modifier to shooting. Added rule for units to split shooting between two targets when the situation arises. Clarified what happens to routing units on the following turn (see the "Activation" section)

12.03.2022: Added +2 shooting modifier for rifle armed "sharpshooters". This keeps their shooting damage limited to 3 dice/2 hits, but increases the chance of success. They can still get out-shot by close range muskets. Will playtest in case +2 is overcooked.

23.05.2022: Dropped the rifle modifier in favour of adjusting shooting dice to 4d12 at all ranges. Amend the stamina system to one of accumulating stamina hits rather than deducting them, as more consistent with DP mechanism. Changed effect of stamina hits on morale tests. Shooting modifier amendments if more than one unit shoots at the same target as there is an imbalance (e.g. two size 2 units can cause more damage than one size 4 unit). Added momentum points for commanders after trying out at Partizan - gives commanders including CinC more to do. Added requirement for troops evading a charge to take a morale test. Added bayonet charge modifier/risk and modified closing to charge accordingly.

25.05.2022: A few additonal tweaks as this moves towards a slightly more complete set of "rules" rather than just ideas and mechanisms. Retrograde movement is addressed along with a slight revision of evades so they are broadly similar - but evades a little harsher as these are less controlled. Units going backwards is seldom a good thing though.

29.05.2022: Removed "unit size" as no longer needed in rules, just count number of models. Artillery table altered to reflect this. Amendements made to the (still optional) momentum points section to allow generation of new points in a limited way and to add mechanism for commander risk if trying to influence the battle. Tidied-up the effect of woods on movement and shooting (light woods do very little) and adjusted effect of minor obstacles to +1DP rather than reduced movment. Considered similar for woods, but some scenarios might be virtually unplayable (e.g. Saratoga battles). Added sequence of play for clarity. 

BLOODYBACKS! - Version 8

(See above for list of amendments)

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.
Readers who are interested in the probabilities generated by some of the dice mechanisms contained in the rules can read more on a specific blog page covering the subject.


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.


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).
Most units will have the same quality in all situations. The exception is indians who will tend to have a higher quality when in woods and a lower quality in other terrain (I suggest 4 or 5 in the former and 1 or 2 in the latter, to be determined by scenario)
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.


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 8 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.
This complicated sounding system is summarised in the table below:
Description Density Suggested basing
Close Order 3-ranks 8 8 figures on a 60mm frontage
6 figures on a 50mm frontage
Close Order 2-ranks 6 6 figures on a 60mm frontage
5 figures on a 50mm frontage
4 figures on a 40mm frontage
Loose Order 2-ranks 5 5 figures on a 60mm frontage
4 figures on a 40mm frontage
Open Order 2-ranks 4 4 figures on a 60mm frontage
3 figures on a 40mm round base
Extended Order/Skirmish 3 3 figures on a 60mm frontage
2 figures on a 40mm frontage
2 figures on a 40mm round base
Cavalry 6 3 mounted figures on 60mm frontage
2 mounted figures on 40mm frontage
Crews 3 However you like! I tend to base as individual figures

Unit size

Unit size relates to the number of model figures in the unit (mounted figures count as two).
Artillery are given a nominal size when shooting that depends on the figure:man ratio used in the game, range and ammunition type. In melee they fight with their actual models.

Unit stamina

Units will gain stamina hits due to shooting or melee when they take hits in excess of their 3DP allowance
Stamina hits are deducted from the unit's "to succeed" number when taking morale tests (to a minimum of 1)
I use different colour dice to mark DPs and stamina hits next to units on the tabletop.

Sequence of Play

  • Side A checks morale for units currently routing
  • Side A activates remaining units one at a time and completes that units actions before moving to the next
  • Side A moves commanders
  • Resolve any melees
  • Side A adds momentum points to any commanders who have earned them
  • Side B then completes their morale checks, activations, etc
  • Start next turn

Activating Units

Units who recovered from rout this turn may not activate. 
To activate a unit, a “hand” of 12-sided dice (d12s) 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 perform three actions. Actions are MOVE, SHOOT or RALLY (or any combination). 
Units who achieve two successes are still allowed to choose only a single action but additionally may also rally one disruption point.
If all of the dice rolled fail to achieve a success the unit must take an immediate morale test. 

NOTE: Units who are routing do not roll to activate but take a morale check instead. If they rout off the table then they are lost.


A unit must check morale if it loses a melee or if it rolls no successes when activating.
Units who begin a game turn in a state of rout must also check morale. 

Roll three d12, the success number being 2x unit quality in the open, or 5+unit quality if in cover. Deduct one for each stamina hit on the unit, to a minimum of "1".
The success number is reduced for a unit losing a melee (by the difference in hits inflicted between the attacker and the defender)
Unit destroyed/surrenders
Rout, facing away from the enemy. Increase to 3DP if not already. 

Pushed back 1 move facing the enemy unless in fortifications
Carry on

Units who rout must take a further morale test instead of an activation roll in subsequent turns, until they roll a "pushed back" or "carry on" result. If rout moves take them off the table then the unit is lost.


A rally action allows a unit to remove one DP.


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. For example, skirmishing infantry move 9" (12" -3 density), Close order infantry in 3 ranks move 4" (12 -8 density)
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 crossing a minor obstacle, take 1DP (to the maximum of 3), cavalry cannot use the combined score on their movement dice. 
If moving in light woods there is no deduction as this is factored into movement rates
If moving in heavy woods, deduct  2 inches from the movement distance for infantry and artillery, cavalry must move the lowest of their two movement rolls. 
Movement is further modified if there is difficult terrain such as steep hills (scenario specific)

Retrograde movement
This is any move where the unit moves backwards or sideways. It is allowed for infantry and unlimbered artillery, however any unit moving in this way must take a DP to reflect the disruption caused, up to its maximum limit of three. If the unit already has 3DPs then it takes a morale test instead.
Cavalry and limbered artillry may not use retrograde movement. They must turn around (one action) then move (more actions) and then turn around again (one action), possibly taking several moves to complete the intended manouevre. This at least does not cause DPs to be taken and the option is also open to infantry.


A unit may only shoot once in a turn. If additional shooting actions are taken these add to the unit's potential effectiveness against its target. 
At close range roll 6d12, at long range roll 3d12. Add 1d12 for any additional shooting actions being taken. Subtract 1d12 if the unit is using a single action to rally and shoot.

The number needed to succeed on each d12 is the target density or less, modified by comparing the unit sizes. 

  • If the shooter and target are the same size then there is no modifier.
  • If the shooter is larger then add 1 to the number needed
  • If the shooter is twice the size, add 2
  • If the shooter is three times the size, add 3 and so on..
  • If the shooter is smaller then deduct 1 from the number needed
  • If the shooter is half the size of the target, deduct 2
  • If the shooter is one-third the size, deduct 3 and so on.. 
  • If the target is in light cover, deduct 1 from the number needed
  • If the target is in significant cover, deduct 2
  • If the target is in fortifications, deduct 3
  • If the target is in woods and the shooter is not, deduct 1 from the number needed
  • Deduct 1 for each full 3" of the shooting that goes through woods
  • If the shooter is enfilading the target and is artillery or is infantry with density of 5 or greater, add 2
  • If the target has already been shot at this turn, deduct 1 and deduct a further 1 for each hit already inflicted this turn

Rolls of "1" always pass. Rolls of "12" always fail

ZERO successes means the shooting fails to cause any effect 

ONE or more successes causes one hit

THREE or more successes causes two hits 

SIX or more successes causes three hits 

  • Infantry manning fortifications are assumed to have density 4 for the purposes of resolving shooting hits. 
  • Units in column of march are assumed to have density 8 for the purposes of resolving shooting hits)

Hits are taken first as Disruption Points (DPs). Once a unit as accrued three DPs any further hits will influct stamina hits. Disruption Points can be removed by rally actions but stamina hits are permanent and negatively affect unit morale when tested. 

A unit may split its fire between two targets where this is a reasonable thing to do because it cannot bring its full firepower to bear on a single target unit. Each shot is taken with a portion of the unit's size counted. For example a size five unit may fire as a size 2 unit a one target and a size 3 target at another.



Line of sight will be interrupted by buildings, hills and other such obstacles

Light woodland does not obstruct line of sight, but will count as light cover for the purposes of shooting.

Heavier woodland ("woods") have a cumulative modifier for shooting, reducing its effectivess for each 3".

Infantry weapons 

Close range 
Long range 
0-6” (6d12)
6-12” (3d12)
0-30" (4d12)
0-6” (4d12)

Artillery sections always roll 6d12 when shooting cannister and 3d12 when shooting roundshot (both modified by additional shooting actions) and have a nominal "size" when shooting depending on calibre and range:
Shooting size (1:10):
24 figures
18 figures
18 figures
12 figures
Shooting size (1:15):
16 figures
12 figures
12 figures
8 figures
Ammunition type:
Shooting dice:
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. Whenever artillery shoot, if one or more of their shooting dice roll "12" the artillery's stamina is reduced by one point. If stamina is reduced to zero then ammunition is depleted and the artillery is removed.


Infantry units of density 3 or 4 who are charged by an infantry 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 evading unit must take a DP (up to its maximum of three) and a morale test at the completion of its evade move.
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.
Evading takes place before a charger needs to roll to close to melee.

Close to melee
Units may enter into melee as part of a move if they can move far enough to make contact with a non-evading enemy unit (using a movement action) and are able to close as described below:
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. 
  • Add an extra d12 if declaring a Bayonet Charge.
(Bayonet charges may only be declared by British infantry units)

Attacking units need THREE or more successes to charge home. Successes in addition to the three required will give a bonus in the actual combat.
Resolve melee
The attacker rolls 6d12. The basic number needed to succeed is 6 or less. This is modified due to relative unit size in the same way as for shooting. 
  • Add one to the number needed for each excess success rolled when closing to melee
  • Add one to the number needed if the attacker's density is two points or more above that of the defender
  • Subtract one from the number needed if the attacker's density is two or more points below that of the defender
  • If the defender is in light cover, deduct one from the number needed to succeed
  • If the defender is defending significant cover, deduct two
  • If the defender is defending fortifications, deduct three
Regardless of modifiers, 1s are always a success and 12s always a failure.
Count up successes and failures. 
  • Each success inflicts hit on the defender (as DPs or stamina losses) in the same way as shooting, i.e. one success = one hit, three successes = 2 hits, six successes = 3 hits
  • Each failure inflicts hit on the attacker (as DPs or stamina losses) in a similar manner to how successes affect the defender
The side who suffer the most hits in the combat take a morale check, with their "to succeed" number reduced by the difference in hits taken by the two sides. If they stand then the attacker takes an unmodified morale test.

If both sides suffer the same number of hits in the combat then all units involved take a simultaneous morale check, UNLESS a Bayonet Charge was declared, in which case the attacker tests morale first AND if both sides stand, the attacker must then withdraw 3" and not stay in contact.

Momentum Points

(Optional Rule)
Each commander may be awarded up to 6 momentum points at the start of the battle. These may be "spent" on attempts to improve the fortune of units that are within 6" of the commander by either re-rolling a hand of dice or adjusting ONE die in a hand from a fail to a success.

To see if the commander is able to exert this influence, roll 1d8 for each momentum point spent. If one or more d8 scores 7+ then the attempt succeeds and the reroll or fail/succeed change made. Otherwise the momentum points are lost. 

Gaining momentum points
A commander can gain one momentum point to add to his pool in the following "good things happen" ways:
  • An infantry unit in his command causes three hits on an enemy unit in a single shooting roll (so only possible with close range musketry or with cannister)
  • A unit in his command causes an enemy unit to rout in melee
  • An enemy unit routs within 12" of his position (not cumulative with the above)

Commander risk
If any of the d8s rolled for momentum score a "1" then there is a risk that the commander has been wounded or killed. Reroll each d8 that came up 1. Each subsequent 1 will reduce the commander's quality by one level to a minimum of one. This represents not only his personal loss of effectiveness but also the morale effect among the men under his command. In an abstract way this could represent either a wounding causing reduced ability or the commander being killed and replaced in a hurry. 
If momentum was being used to influence a melee resolution then rolls of 1 or 2 in each case will risk/cause wounds.

At the end of the game roll a d8 for each wounded commander. If the d8 roll is equal to or less than the number of wounds he has taken in the game, then he has been killed in action or succumbed to his wounds. On a higher roll he has suffered mere flesh wounds and will be unaffected in his next battle.

The d8s may not be rerolled or converted by another commander's influence! 
Only one commander can seek to influence any particular dice roll

I use d8s as in practice it got confusing to roll d12s to see if you could reroll other d12s. Anything that gives a 25% chance on one die is fine, but d4s are just too fiddly. For those interested in the probabilities, spending one momentum point gives a 25% chance of success, two give a 44% chance, three give 58%, four give 68%, five give 76% and six give 82%.

For my initial experiments I am giving each side an equal number of momentum points shared between its commanders. Take the army with the most commander and multiply this by four to give the total points for each army to work from. As an example in my Freeman's Farm scenario the Americans had four commanders (Arnold, Morgan, Poor and Learned) and the British three (Burgoyne, Hamilton and Fraser). Multiplying the higher number by 4 gives each army a pool of 16 momentum points to share out. This was done according to seniority and historical performance to add a bit of flavour to the game:
Arnold:5, Morgan:4, Poor:4, Learned:3 ; Burgoyne:6, Hamilton:4, Fraser:6.

But equally you could use these to balance player experience as a sort of 'handicap' system! It's early days with these. Yes, the "wounds" mechanism could get a lot more sophisticated, but this will do for now.

Photo of my figures by Dr Phil Hendry