A Detailed Description

In his designer notes, David R. Hoffman reveals his motivations in making Washington's Wars: "This game is concerned more with the actions and events of a battle than whether a unit is of the correct strength. Playability and realism have been approached in a combined effort to allow an enjoyable game to be played and to provide a 'feel' for the nature of the battles and the units involved."

This, then, is a game which allows players to get down to the fighting, without worrying whether the tabletop exactly depicts the historical battlefield, or if the 33rd Foot were short 50 men at the Battle of Camden.

The Fighting Men

The basic unit for play is the battalion, consisting of 5 stands (for regulars) and 3-7 stands (for irregular forces).

Infantry can be either line or light, regular or irregular -- the only exception is a special case, the Indian Warrior. Light troops have the advantage of being able to skirmish. Troops may be equipped with muskets or rifles, and pistols can be purchased for use in melee.

All cavalry are light, and either regular or irregular.

The artillery is available in three classes -- light (2-5 pound), medium (6-9 pound), and heavy (10 pounds or more).

Units are built through a point system. The player determines the cost for the individual soldier, then multiplies by the number of figures to determine the cost of the battalion. The cost is based on the troop type, but extra costs are incurred if the player adds more equipment or improves the unit's ratings.

All units are rated A-E in three categories: Fire Combat, Melee Combat, and Morale. The basic troop type is given an "E" (the lowest score) in all categories -- the player must spend extra points if he wishes to improve the scores.

In the data section, average ratings are listed for a variety of troop types in both wars. Each troop type is also given a suggested upper limit for improving their scores.

Leaders. In general, four or so units make up a brigade, and each brigade has a leader. (In very large games, leaders may also be provided for higher-level officers.) In addition, each side has an Army Commander. Each leader has a rating, representing his ability.

In the data section of the rulebook, ability scores are given for the major historical figures of the two wars. For custom scenarios, the score is determined by die roll.

Sequence of Play

Washington's Wars provides two possible Sequences of Play, to be used depending upon the number of players. The Phase Card system is used for large groups, while the Die Roll method is used with smaller groups.

Die Roll Sequence of Play. When playing with 2-4 players, each game turn is composed of these steps:

Initiative Both Army Commanders roll dice, adding their leadership scores to the roll. The high roller chooses whether to Act or React this turn.
Acting Player's Charges If the high roller chose to Act, he is the Acting Player; otherwise, his opponent is the Acting Player this turn. The Acting player declares and resolves any charges.
Acting Player's Actions Acting player's non-charging units may conduct Actions.
Reacting Player's Charges Reacting Player declares and resolves charges.
Reacting Player's Actions Reacting Player's non-charging units may conduct Actions.
Melee Units in contact resolve melee combat.
Reserve Movement Units which are distant from the enemy may take bonus movement.
Rally Leaders rally dispirited troops, and all units lose one Disorder marker.
Phase Card Sequence of Play. This system is used when more than 4 players are involved. Each player must be represented on the tabletop by a leader stand.

In essence, what happens is that the regular turn is divided into a series of mini-turns, known as Phases. The full sequence of play looks like this:

Initiative Both Army Commanders roll dice, adding their leadership scores to the roll. High roller has the Initiative this turn.
Draw Phase Cards Each player draws a number of Phase Cards equal to his leader stand's rating, plus one card for each unit in his command. A bonus Card is earned if the leader's units are centralized.
Phase One Declare Active Units The side without the Initiative first declares which units will be Active this phase, then the opposing side declares its Active units. After both sides have declared, either side has a last chance to activate units using Wildcards.
Declare Charges The side with Initiative declares and resolves charges, and then the other side declares and resolves charges. Only Active units may charge.
Declare Actions Non-charging Active units may take Actions. The side with Initiative has the option to go first, or to let the opposing side go first.
Melee Any units in contact resolve melee combat.
Phase Two Same as Phase One.
Phase Three Ditto.
Phase Four Ditto.
Reserve Movement Units which are distant from the enemy may take bonus movement.
Rally Leaders rally dispirited troops, and all units lose one Disorder marker.
Units are activated by the play of a Phase Card. For instance, to activate a unit in the First Phase, a player would need to have a Phase One card. Alternately, he could use a Wildcard, which can activate a unit in any phase.

Each unit can normally be activated only once per turn. However, a battalion can be activated for a second time if it is within close range of the player's leader stand.

Players may not show their Phase Cards to their team members unless their respective leader stands are in contact.


During the play of the game, the battalions have the opportunity to take Actions. The defined Actions are:

When movement is combined with any other activity (such as Move and Fire), the unit's movement rate is halved; similarly, when firing is combined with other activities, only half of the unit's combat factors can be used.

Units that Fire and Move must make a morale check prior to moving.

Artillery stands have additional Actions which allow them to limber and unlimber.

Responses. Certain Actions allow non-active units to take responsive Actions. The circumstances and allowed responses are:

A morale check is required before units being charged can take any Response.

Movement and Formations

All units must be in one of 5 possible formations:

Line 1 stand deep, up to 14 stands wide. In order to make turns, units in line formation must perform a wheel.
Column 1 stand wide, up to 14 stands deep. Units in column formation cannot make charges. (An historical sidebar explains that column charges were not used in this era.)
Square Unit is drawn up with elements facing in all four directions.
Mass Stands are in a group facing the same direction. Broken units use Mass formation.
Skirmish Similar to line formation, but the stands are separated up to 1" apart. Only Light troops may skirmish.
Except in skirmish formation, a unit's stands are always touching.

A unit's type (foot or cavalry) and formation determine its movement rate. In addition, charging units receive a Charge Bonus to their basic movement rate.

Movement can cause troops to become Disordered. For instance, infantry become Disordered when moving through woods. One unit passing through another unit can cause both units to become Disordered.


During small-arms combat, each unit receives 1 Combat Point per figure. Points are doubled at short range, and halved at long range (range depends upon whether the unit is armed with muskets or rifles).

Next, the modifiers for this attack are figured. The Fire Rating of the unit counts, as does the firing unit's status (first volley, morale status, mounted, resting weapons) and the target unit's situation (formation, terrain, flank attack).

One die is rolled, and the modifiers are added to the die roll. On the Combat Table, the modified die roll is compared against the total Combat Points to find how many losses were inflicted.

On the Combat Chart, two numbers are listed. The first is the number of automatic hits inflicted on the target. The second is a Combo Number, and represents the chance of inflicting an additional hit on the target. If a Combo Number is listed, the player rolls two dice to determine if he scores the bonus hit.

(Combo Numbers were first introduced by Jim Getz in his Napoleonique miniatures rules. The Combo Number system allows the generation of more results than are normally possible without the use of exotic dice.)

Each hit must be marked on one of the figures in the target unit. When all figures on a stand have been hit, that stand is removed from play.

EXAMPLE OF COMBAT: At the Battle of Camden in the American War of Independence, the South Carolina Militia (an American unit) opens fire at the Volunteers of Ireland (a British unit).

The militia consists of 16 figures, so it has 16 Combat Points. Its target is at a range of 5" -- medium range for a musket, which means that the Combat Point total is not modified.

Modifiers which apply to this attack are: +1 (good Fire rating -- State Miltia are equal to Continental units in training), +3 (initial volley), and -1 (target behind a wooden fence). Final modifier = 1 + 3 - 1 = 3.

To save time, the attacker rolls 3 dice -- one for the attack, and two more (of a different color) in case he needs to make a Combo Roll. He rolls a "1" for the attack, and a "7" for the Combo Roll.

On the Combat Table, in the "4" Column (the attack die roll plus modifier) and the "16" column (unit's Combat Points), the result is "3/4." The first number means that the Volunteers take 3 hits. The second number is a Combo Number.

Checking the Combo Number against the Combo Table tells us that the attacker needs a result of "5" in order to score the additional hit. His die roll was "7," so no bonus hit is scored.

The Volunteers receive three hits, and must make a Morale Check. If they pass the Check, they may be eligible to return fire as a Response Action.

Artillery Fire. The same general system is used for artillery fire. Each stand's Combat Points depends upon the class of the gun (light, medium, heavy). Firing at short range qualifies for a modifier representing the use of grapeshot or cannister; otherwise, range does not affect artillery fire.

When artillery is fired upon, each hit from the Combat Table gives the player one die roll on the Artillery Hit Table. The possible results are a gun hit, a crew hit (which provides a penalty to that stand), or no effect.

Melee Combat. Again, the same combat system is used. Each infantry or cavalry figure counts for one Combat Point. A different combat modifier table is used, providing rewards or penalties for (among other things) Melee Rating, charging, attacking from flank or rear, being mounted, cover and formation. Irregular troops suffer a penalty (due to not being equipped with bayonets). Regulars receive a bonus on the first round of melee combat, while Irregulars receive a bonus on the third round (when combat typically becomes disorganized). Units with pistols receive a first round bonus as well.

Charges. Each charge declaration must name a specific target unit. Charges must be made against the nearest threatening enemy unit, if there is one.

The attacker moves halfway toward the target, and the target unit makes a Morale Check -- if it succeeds, it may either fire at the charge or attempt to wheel to face the charge. If the attacker takes any hits, it must take a Morale Check -- if it succeeds, or if no hits were scored, the charging unit moves into contact with its target.

Nothing further happens until the Melee Phase, when combat between the two units is resolved.


At any time during the game, a unit may be forced to make a Morale Check. Circumstances which force a Morale Check are:

All units have a Morale Number based on their Morale Rating. This number is a Combo Number. A number of situational modifiers apply, which are added to the Morale Number to determine a final Combo Number. The player then rolls 2 dice and checks the Combo Table to see if his die roll succeeds or fails.

If the Morale Check fails, another die is rolled and one of the Morale Tables is consulted. Three tables are provided -- one for failed morale during melee combat, one to be used during charges, and a third general-purpose table. As the result of a failed Morale Check, a unit may become Disordered, Shaken, or Broken. It will also probably be forced to disengage from the enemy.

Disorder. As a result of a failed Morale Check, a unit may become Disordered for 1 or more turns. (Movement may also cause troops to become Disordered.) A unit may have more than one Disordered marker at the same time. Disordered troops are confused and disorganized. In general, they cannot advance upon the enemy, and they cannot fire unless advanced upon or fired at by the enemy. They suffer a penalty when changing formation.

Shaken. Troops which are Shaken no longer have the will to fight. They cannot change formation, and cannot return fire unless charged.

Broken. These soldiers no longer have the will to remain on the battlefield. They change to Mass formation and immediately move away from the enemy. The unit permanently lowers its Morale rating by one; an irregular unit also takes 2 hits. The unit must attempt to leave the tabletop.

Disordered units naturally recover, ridding themselves of one Disorder marker per Rally Phase. For Shaken or Broken troops, however, a leader's help is necessary.

Whenever a leader's stand is in contact with any stand of a combat unit, he is considered attached to that unit. During the Rally Phase, an attached leader can attempt to rally any Shaken or Broken unit to which he is attached. Two dice are rolled, and the result is modified by the leader's rating, the unit's Morale rating, casualties, and troop type (irregulars are easier to rally).

If the rally roll is successful, Shaken troops become Disordered, and Broken troops become Shaken. However, if the roll is failed badly, the troops kill the leader instead.

Attached leaders can also remove Disordered markers from their units. However, being attached presents a risk -- whenever his unit takes hits, there is a slight chance that the leader may be slain.

EXAMPLE OF MORALE: Continuing the combat example from above, the Volunteers of Ireland must immediately make a Morale Check since they received hits in fire combat. They are Morale rating C, which has a Combo Number of 11.

The Combo Number is modified by: -2 (behind a fence) and +3 (for the damage), for a final result of 11 - 2 + 3 = 12. The player rolls two dice, and scores a "4."

The Combo Table indicates that with a Combo of 12, Morale is failed with a roll of 2, 4, 5 or 9. Having rolled a "4," the Volunteers suffer a morale failure.

Now the British player rolls one dice and checks the Other Failed Morale Table. A roll of "6" indicates that the Volunteers retreat, and receive 2 Disordered markers. Because they failed morale, the Volunteers may not return fire (a Response Action) against their attacker.

Additional Rules

Sighting Dummy markers (wood blocks) are used to represent units which are not within sighting range of the enemy. If a unit previously sighted moves out of sighting range, it is taken from the tabletop and replaced with two dummy markers.
Heroic Actions Once per game, each leader may attempt a Heroic Action in order to negate a morale failure suffered by the unit to which he is attached.
Prisoners There is a chance that units which become Broken during melee may surrender. If so, the prisoners must be escorted to a safe location.
Weather and Daylight After every 4 turns, a Weather Roll is made to see if a storm begins. Before a custom scenario begins, dice are rolled to determine the number of turns left before sunset. Night rules are provided in case the game continues past sunset.
Scouting The Scouting system allows players to discover information about enemy forces. Scouting Points are received for each Light infantry or cavalry unit. If the enemy fails to scout a unit, it may become Hidden. A Hidden unit's location is marked on a map, and it is not revealed until sighted by the enemy.
Planned Routs As an optional rule, American militia units may designate a regrouping area prior to play. If that unit routs, there is a chance that it will head toward the designated area; when/if it gets there, the unit might stop and return to normal morale status.
Fire Discipline This optional rule suggests that Irregular units must make a Morale Check in order to avoid firing at enemies in musket range.
Victory Points This victory system can be used for any scenario that does not have its own victory conditions. Each player secretly assigns point values to the terrain features on the tabletop, and the player which holds each objective at the end receives the total points for that objective from both players. Points are also received for destroying, capturing, and demoralizing the enemy. Two ratios are then determined -- the original force ratio, and the final victory point ratio. If a player's victory ratio exceeds his force ratio, he wins. (For instance, if a British player has a 2:1 advantage over his French enemy, he must achieve better than a 2:1 victory point ratio to win.)


In addition to the design rules and army lists which allow players to invent their own scenarios, Washington's Wars provides several ready-to-play scenarios. All battles can be played on a 4' x 6' tabletop.

The scenarios are:

Bunker Hill (American War of Independence)
An American force must hold their hilltop positions against a British attack. The British force enters in three waves; the Americans may send messengers to request reinforcements.
Approximate Forces 200 figures (British) versus 220 figures (American)
Guilford Courthouse (AWI)
A battle fought among and between two clearings in the woods. The British are on the offensive, and the Americans are deployed in three successive lines.
Approximate Forces 180 figures (British) versus 200 figures (American)
First Battle of Savannah (AWI)
The Americans are deployed in woods behind a stream, while the British are advancing across open ground. Due to secret information, this scenario requires a referee. Due to small size, suitable for 25mm figures (or 15mm figures and a smaller playing area).
Approximate Forces 90 figures (British) versus 70 figures (American)
Monmouth (AWI)
An American Advance Corps is shadowing the British army, with the American Main Body in reserve. During the historical battle, the shadowing force collided with the British, then withdrew; sensing victory, the British attacked. This is the largest battle of the war, and is fought using a special scale of 2 stands per battalion.
Approximate Forces 450 figures (American) versus 190 figures (British), plus up to 170 British figures (reinforcements)
Camden (AWI)
Two armies meet in open ground, flanked by swamps on both sides.
Approximate Forces 170 figures (British) versus 150 figures (American)
Ticonderoga (French & Indian War)
The British assault French troops entrenched on a hilltop. The historical battle is a bit one-sided, but options allow the British to try a fairer "what if" scenario with better morale and artillery support.
Approximate Forces 240 figures (British) versus 170 figures (French)
Quebec (F&I)
Two armies collide in poor weather, to decide the fate of Canada.
Approximate Forces 200 figures (British) versus 200 figures (French)
Germantown (AWI)
A bungled American offensive in the fog against an encamped British force that is just waking up.
Approximate Forces 760 figures (American) versus 460 figures (British)

The Painting Guide

The rulebook includes 8 1/2 pages of reference material for painting figures in this time period. An illustration shows the location of such items as gaiters and turnbacks, while the text provides information on specific units. For instance:

Royal Americans (60th Foot) -- blue facings; no lace summer uniform of red waistcoats and leather breeches; also recorded as having brown gaiters and blue and green mitasses.
The information is useful, but terms are not always defined (forcing novices to look for additional reference material). For instance, from the example above, the text does not explain what "facings" or "mitasses" are.

The rulebook is lavishly illustrated with color photos from battle reenactments, which should also prove helpful to the painter.

Last Updates
9 April 1996reorganized
Comments or corrections?