Wooden Wars: Wooden Soldier Project - Part 7: Column-line-square beats paper-rock-scissors!

"He that makes war without many mistakes has not made war very long."
~ Napoleon Bonaparte

Battalion in column march past their marshal and staff.

With Gen Con just over the horizon, and yours truly running at least 8 games there,  I have been busy painting up units and working on the rules for Wooden Wars.  This installment deals with two of the four main rules systems of the game, with a little painting thrown in.  So dress your lines, jauntily tip your bearskin, and read on! 
New 20 man unit painted in the "French" style

Finished up these guys. Done in a "Leger" fashion
A Grenadier officer takes command until I finish painting their officer

Basic Training:
There are two possible ways to win a game in Wooden Wars: knock over the enemy's army or capture their flag (or some pre-determined objective, like a fort).  These goals are achieved by firing at the enemy and maneuvering your troops into a position where they can capture(touch) objectives. To achieve this, the rules for an activated unit are they can either move or fire.  Simple  to remember and easy for all to see on the battlefield. 

Forwaaard-- March!  Movement:

When creating a system for movement and formations in Wooden Wars, I looked to capture the essence and feel of the horse-and-musket period, including everything that I have read or experienced in games from this genre which I have been playing for over three decades.  Line (column and square), march moves, charges, etc.  it all had to fit into Wooden Wars, be easy to represent and execute, and make sense.  
Batons W.I.P.  made from pre cut 1 foot wooden dowels.

In-game all movement is done in 12 inch increments, hereafter known as “batons”.   This was chosen because kids know what a ruler is, their use for movement on the battlefield was very apparent, and, honestly, it was a happy accident.  I make mine out of pre-cut, 1 foot, wooden dowels I buy at the DYI shop for 60 cents each, or flat wood.  For more on making batons, check out this blog Batons

To move a unit, place the baton in front of the center of the activated unit in the direction you want them to march. Then advance them  up to the full length (a full baton) distance.  If a unit has an officer, start the movement measurement from the front of the officer's model base. This means units with mounted officers will move a bit farther. (hint hint)  
To move place baton in direction you want to go

and move to the opposite end. Placing officers first helps

Note how much more distance you gain with a mounted officer. Cheesy marketing or clever tactics?

Which direction you move is very Kriegspiel, meaning that you can go any direction you want and change facing or formation as long as the unit did not move more than a baton. The only caveat to this is: if a unit is charging another, it must start the turn with the opposing unit within its front 90 degree arc.

Double moving. The unit will finish in column formation.
In Column. Units cannot fire in Column formation, so have to form back into line.

In the advanced version of the rules, Infantry units may do the following.
·         move one baton, or fire once in line formation
·         move two batons, but must finish the move in column formation, and may not fire
o   This formation is great for capturing objectives or charging into melee, but is commonly known as the "domino" formation when fired upon... And it must reform into line before it can fire.
·         form square, not move, and fire once from any direction at cavalry only
o   Squares cannot move; more on this when we cover melee.

Remember if a unit moves, it can't fire that turn.

Top down of a square with its officer and Commander inside

Square defending against two under painted cavalry units.

The biggest takeaway that I can share with you on movement is that when real projectiles are being fired with an accuracy akin to musket fire and units are moving about - it feels "real"! That is to say the formations and movement actually work as historically intended. This concept seems like a no brainer, but is wonderful to experience firsthand.

Take Aim - Fire!
 The system for firing was easy to figure but needed defining.   With so many possible projectiles to use, and with children playing the game, I wanted something easy to acquire, easy to use (ie: needing a bit of skill and luck), and nothing too lethal. Rubber bands or any kind of secondary projectile system like dart or nerf guns were right out. Ping-pong balls had too much bounce and not enough punch to do the trick.
South Bay Gaming Club playtest. ADC Fossling Advises to Marshal Lucas.

Captain N getting ready to fire his grenadiers from La Haye Block.
This young officer has been the best shot the game has seen thus far!

 The basic rubber ball, found in 23-30mm sizes in most grocery store vending machines,  was the clear winner and what we use.  The ball has good size, a mass that works well with the velocity required and enough bounce to give it randomness.  Many a field test at the Fossling proving grounds showed us that tossing the ball underhand was the best method of delivery, although in the heat of action I have seen some players forget this and hurl balls about with abandon! Like real battles, fire control is key! In order to give the system some "gravitas"  I added that, when firing, it is important to note that the ball must bounce at least once before hitting a target in order to be considered a valid toss!  Any models struck and knocked over are considered casualties and will be removed during the rallying phase of the turn.  From this one small detail a great skill factor was added. Yay!

During play tests we had quite a few "leaners"- thems what would lean waaaaaay over their firing unit to get in a shot. This instigated the rule where players must position themselves at least one baton distance behind the attacking unit before firing.  

In a nutshell - here are the rules for firing in Wooden Wars:
·         The target must lay within the 90 degree arc of fire of the attacking unit.
·         The ball must bounce at least once before hitting any target to be considered valid, or "in-play".
·         Toss one ball per infantry unit that did not move on the same turn.
·         Toss one ball per cavalry unit that moved no more than 1 baton on the same turn.
·         Artillery batteries that consist of more than one cannon fire one ball per gun, BUT must fire them all at the same time, and in the same direction.  You may use both hands to do this.

The Bounce back Rule: AKA Duck! 
Any ball that hits an object not on the battlefield (units or terrain) and bounces back is considered out of play. If it knocks anything down, it does not count and any casualties or terrain damage is immediately reset.  The same applies to balls that fail to bounce at least once before striking a target.
 Cigar boxes make the perfect storage and troop transports.

That's it for this dev' diary installment.  With things running fast and loose at present, I am not going to commit to a topic for next time, but am open to suggestions. In the meantime, book your tickets to Gen Con and fill up your dance card with Wooden Wars!  Hope to see you on the battlefield!


  1. The rules appear nice and elegant, well as elegant as chucking a ball at some wooden soldiers can be! I'm wondering a few things - is cannon fire somehow different and can soldiers be rallied, and stood back up?


  2. Ahoy Furt- Yes, cannon get one ball per gun when firing- so a battery of three guns tosses three balls, but you have to toss them all at the same time.

    As for Morale, there is a rallying phase where officers can rally (stand up)one soldier per turn, veterens and officers have a "dodgeball" save and your Commander can use reinforcement coins to buy units up to strength.

    I think we found the subjects of next blog, so More on these next Posting.

  3. Things are coming together very nicely Mssr. Foss! Please give my best to Mrs. Foss and the Fosslings.


    - Rod

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