The Spanish-American War was not, in terms of duration or intensity, the most important armed conflict in the latter part of the 19th Century. While recognized as being of political importance, and much studied by students of naval warfare, it is perceived as being a one-sided conflict on land, and consequently of no interest to the miniatures wargamer. Not true!
For the U.S., a basically excellent army, largely composed of veterans of the Indian Wars and American Civil War, came to battle under-equipped and with an outmoded concept of war. It is lucky, indeed, that the Spanish high command was so entirely self-defeating: a naval blockade could ensure that Cuba and Puerto Rico fell to the U.S., but popular support in the U.S. would not have been the same had casualties been as heavy as they easily might. The Spanish troops were experienced and better equipped in many respects - had they been concentrated appropriately, the U.S. might have found itself in a worse bargaining position than was historically the case.
Historical miniatures wargaming is all about the "what ifs?" of history, and this conflict is a "splendid little war" in that sense. We have the basic dynamic of the 20th Century infantry combat - artillery, machineguns, and rifles - in a setting where small armies can realistically portray historical (or historically plausible) actions. These rules focus on the basic realities of the battlefield as reported by the participants. While generalizing weapons types for ease of play, the "flavor" of this contest has been reproduced in a quick-play format.
Note that measurements as given are appropriate for 15mm and 20mm figures; for 25mm (and 20mm, if you prefer), double all measurements. For 6mm and 10mm figures, increase the number of figures per base "to taste." All dice are ordinary six-sided dice.
To build armies for this conflict, the following information may be helpful: Frontier has released an extensive line in 15mm, including both smaller boxed packs and bags of 100 figures. Freikorps 15s also makes a 15mm range. It is fairly easy to find useable figures for conversion in any American Civil War range to use for the Spanish, Cuban, and Filipino forces; Old Glory has 25mm U.S. soldiers, both mounted and dismounted, that can be used for U.S. troops. You can use their 25mm ACW artillery models for the guns, although you'll have to modify Confederate gunners. For Spanish artillery, use the Krupp guns of the Egyptian army from any 25mm Colonial range.
All troops are categorized as follows:
Units are mounted on bases 1" square. Infantry and cavalry bases have two figures each; artillery and machineguns have a gun model and two gunners. Each base represents approximately 100-200 men (a company or squadron), or a "section" of two guns. Each base is a "unit" in it's own right, although these are grouped into higher-level formations.
Additionally, the command unit of a particular army is represented, although the general's base does not count as a typical "unit" under these rules.
Bases ("units") are grouped into organizations at the brigade level. A "brigade" consists of a group of infantry or cavalry bases, along with whatever supporting machinegun or artillery units are attached to it. On paper, a U.S. cavalry regiment will have 3 bases; a U.S. infantry battalion 4 bases; a Spanish cavalry regiment 4 bases; a Spanish line infantry battalion 4 bases; and a Spanish "Rifle" or "Light Infantry" battalion 6 bases. Attrition reduced numbers, so when calculating from actual rosters, figure 1 base per 150 men.
All bases in a brigade must make every effort to remain within 1" of another base in the brigade, as a higher priority even than following orders. The exception here is for artillery and machineguns, which can remain further back to fire in support of an attack or defense involving their brigade. They must simply be capable of firing on the enemy units opposing their brigade.
Take the component battalions/regiments within a brigade, total the number of bases, and field this number of units to make up the brigade, along with a base for each section of guns/machineguns attached to it. For small actions, battalion/regimental organizations may be substituted for brigades - this should be specified by the scenario.
It is recommended that units that have moved be marked (use cotton balls painted brown, for dust, or counters), and that units that have fired also be marked (white cotton balls, or counters). "Recovered" markers should be used on pinned/suppressed units that spent their action to recover from this condition. At the end of the turn, pick these markers up (pinned/suppressed units should also be marked, but these markers will stay with the unit until removed as an action during play.)
Movement includes maneuvering units on the tabletop and the intiation of close assaults. Units can move in any direction or combination of directions as a single action, and can adjust facing as desired during movement. Total movement may not exceed the base movement rate, adjusted for terrain. Friendly units may freely interpenetrate, but you may not interpenetrate emeny units.
When a player moves a unit into contact with an enemy unit, it is considered a "close assault." Machineguns and artillery may not initiate a close assault.
Suppressed/pinned units cannot move - the only action they are allowed to take is to recover from suppression/pin. They must perform this action unless actively taking enemy fire during the current turn (at any time before they perform their action).
Barbed wire requires a full turn to cross for enemy troops - friendly troops simply deduct 1" of movement (this assumes that they know the "paths" through the wire). You will move up to the wire on one turn's action, and during the next movement action, you will move the base to the other side of the wire. If there are troops defending immediately behind the barbed wire, a close assault does not exist until the second movement action.
Roads double all movement, and obviate the effects of rough terrain on movement (not including barbed wire.) Towns count as roads for movement purposes.
Rifle-armed units fire one die up to 18", carbine-armed units fire one die up to 12". MG units fire two dice up to 18". Field artillery units fire up to 36", and seige artillery units up to 48". Artillery fire places a "sheaf," which is a rectangle 1" x 2" for field guns, and one covering four 1" square areas, forming any regular rectangle at the firing player's discretion. Any unit - friend or foe - with any part of their base underneath the sheaf must roll for the effects of fire when the sheaf is placed, and any units subsequently moving into the area covered by the sheaf must also roll for effects of fire. The sheaf is removed from the tabletop at the end of the turn. It does not block line of sight (LOS).
Fire is performed one unit at a time, in any order the firing player chooses. You may wait to see the effects of one unit's fire before firing others. Note that machineguns may choose to fire partial dice, firing one die at one point in a turn, and using the rest of the fire action (the other fire die) at a later point in the turn.
Units may not fire if suppressed/pinned. They can fire in a 45-degree arc off either side of their facing, at any spotted target within LOS of the firing unit. Note that troops block fire under most circumstances (see LOS and spotting rules).
When fire on a target is announced, that target may elect to become voluntarily pinned, in which case this status is implemented immediately, and is taken into account when modifying fire dice.
You are allowed to fire at an enemy unit that is being close-assaulted by friendly troops, so long as the friendly troops do not block LOS.
Rifles, Carbines, and Machineguns: If any die scores a 4 or 5, the target unit is suppressed/pinned. If any die scores a 6, the target unit is destroyed/dispersed, and removed from play.
Artillery: Roll one die for any unit even partially under the "sheaf." If any die scores a 3 or 4 for field artillery, or a 2 or 3 for seige artillery, the target unit is suppressed/pinned. If any die scores a 5 or 6 for field artillery, or a 4 - 6 for seige artillery, the target unit is destroyed/dispersed, and removed from play.
Note that each unit fires one-at-a-time, with effects of that fire going into effect before the next unit fires. Units moving into an artillery sheaf must roll at the time they enter the sheaf, and suffer any effects at that location.
Unit is suppressed/pinned: -1 to fire die
Unit is in soft cover: -1 to fire die
Unit is in hard cover: -2 to fire die
For Spanish units, ammunition was always scarce. Whenever a Spanish fire die comes up a natural 1, roll a second die. Another roll of a natural 1 indicates that the unit is out of ammunition, and may not fire for the duration of the game (this status should be marked with a counter). For Spanish artillery units, make a separate roll of two dice each time they fire - a roll of 2 indicates that the unit is out of ammunition, and may not fire again after the current turn's sheaf has been removed.
For U.S. machinegun units, spraying friendly troops with fire was an unfortunate reality. Whenever a U.S. MG unit rolls a natural (unmodified) 1, roll a second die. On a score of 5 or 6, a friendly unit (if any) within the arc of fire and LOS is suppressed/pinned (roll for which unit is effected if there is more than one eligible friendly-fire target.) Note that the second roll is modified by the usual fire modifiers, as applicable.
To resolve close assaults, units "pair off" with an enemy unit with which they are in contact, until all units in contact have been designated as a part of a "pair," consisting of themselves and an unpaired enemy unit. Any "extra" units that are in contact with an already-paired enemy unit will act as "secondary" units in some single combat. By definition, "secondary units" may never be in contact with enemy "secondary" units, or the two would form a primary pair. Each unit throws one die, with the primary and secondary dice being added together. Whichever side scores the highest total has destroyed/captured all enemy units in the combat, and these units are removed from play.
Suppressed/pinned units get a -1 to their die score.
Artillery/MG units get a -1 to their die score.
Mounted cavalry get a +1 to their die score versus opponents not in soft or hard cover or rough terrain, on the condition that they have "charged" at least 2" in a straight line in the move that resulted in the close assault.
Ties are rerolled.
LOS and spotting rules are central to this game, and are not necessarily typical of similar rules found in other miniatures wargames. In order to "see" an enemy unit, it must be in LOS; in order to fire on it, it must both be in LOS and "spotted."
There are two categories of terrain obstacles that block LOS. The first consists only of hills, which can be one or more terrain levels tall. They can either be "ridges" or "plateaus". If ridges, the scenario should specify where the ridge line runs.
The second category of obstacles are terrain features that block LOS only between units on the same terrain level, but have no effect when "looking down from above" or "looking up". These include woods, buildings, and troops. You can see up to 1" into or through woods and built-up areas. Troops block fire, but not LOS.
It is assumed that troops will generally take advantage of whatever cover offers itself under most circumstances. In the case of the Phillipines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, almost everyplace you went there was sufficient cover to hide behind, even in relatively open ground. Certain acts - firing, and moving - will give troops' position away, making them eligible targets for fire.
Any other conditions result in the unit not being spotted. At the beginning of each turn, all units are assumed to have "gone to ground," and must be re-spotted before they again become eligible targets for fire.
There are certain exceptions to the spotting rules: artillery may always consider as "spotted" known enemy positions: blockhouses, trenches, artillery emplacements, towns, crossroads, etc. These areas are always eligible as targets for artillery fire, and should be designated by scenario.
Each army has an HQ base, or "general." HQ bases may move as mounted cavalry or infantry, as desired turn-by-turn, at the same time as any single brigade under their command. They cannot be chosen as targets for fire, and if subject to close assault will be given a four-inch "free move" to get out of the way - they are not allowed to participate in close assaults, nor to move into contact with enemy units. They do not block LOS.
At the start of the game, each brigade must be given a "standing order," which is to attack or defend some terrain feature (mark path of attack or line of defence on a map). You may not give conditional standing orders, although a specific number of turns may be specified before a unit commences an attack or falls back to another designated line of defence.
Orders may be changed at the start of any turn, on a roll of two dice that is less than or equal to the distance in inches between any base in the concerned brigade and the HQ base. A roll of 2 always indicates success, and a roll of 12 always indicates failure, regardless of distance. Inches passing through rough terrain are counted as twice their actual distance.
Valid orders include attack, defend, withdraw, and counter-march. All are written in relation to the terrain features of the battlefield, and/or plotted on a map of the terrain.
Guidelines for implementing orders should be established by the referee or as house rules, but should be guided by common sense: an attack should move as quickly as it can, while keeping units within 1" of each other; defending units can maneuver inside their position, but cannot move closer to the enemy.
When a brigade reaches 50% casualties (percentage of units destroyed/dispersed or suppressed/pinned), it may no longer attack or advance toward the enemy, and will defend in place until it receives orders that it can carry out (to withdraw to a specified location, or, if suppressed units have recovered to bring casualty total below 50%, to resume the attack, etc.) When a brigade reaches the 75% casualty limit, it is removed from play, having fled in panic/surrendered.
When 50% of the brigades in any army have been removed from play in this fashion, the army breaks, and has lost the battle.
The Cuban army was composed almost entirely of guerillas (both infantry and cavalry), the Filipino insurrectionist infantry and cavalry count as guerillas, and the Spanish "contra-guerilla" companies (infantry and cavalry) also count as guerillas. There are some special rules for these units:
When resolving a close assault involving guerillas and non-guerilla units, the guerilla unit(s) are automatically removed from play, having simply "faded off" into the countryside to regroup. They do not count as destroyed for morale purposes - simply ignore them when figuring percentages. A similar result applies when such bases receive any adverse effect from fire (either suppressed/pinned or destroyed) - the unit is removed from play, and ignored for morale purposes.
For those formations consisting entirely of guerillas, the entire formation is ignored for the purposes of determining whether the army has "broken." Guerilla units are useful for "spotting" enemy units by close assaulting them, which represents their scouting function. They can also be used to draw enemy fire, acting as a screen for the regulars.
Certain terrain definitions need to be clarified: