Friday, December 2, 2022

Close Wars

Close Wars

The rules

Close Wars by Donald Featherstone. Free wargame rules for army men

I wanted to try some really oldschool wargaming, and I think Donald Featherstone is considered to be one of the inventors of simple rules for wargaming with toy soldiers. On the excellent blog of 'The Man of Tinblog' I found a blogpost with a copy of Donald Featherstone's Close Wars. These rule are very simple and aren't exactly made for this size or modern battles, but I wanted to have a go at a 'classic' and see if it was playable with the scenario I've used in my recent games.

The scenario

I've placed this skirmish to the United Nations largest mission in both scale and operational scope during the Congo Crisis 1960-65, when UN troops 'peacekeeping' was more offensive 'peace enforcement' with force.

This skirmish is finding place in fictional place of Lumbaya in the early January of 1963, when the UN during operation 'Grand Slam' are turning their attention to the remaining Katangese strongholds in Southern Katanga after after securing the Katangese capitol of Élisabethville.

Lumbaya is a very small village located 80km south west of Élisabethville, and are made into a stronghold by a small platoon of Katangese Gendarmes. The village is one of several strongholds in the area to trying to hold the UN off while trying to keep the self-proclaimed president Tshombe by power of the self-proclaimed Katanga state.

  • Katangese:
    • 2 rifle-squads each of 10 soldiers, a LMG and and a bazooka/flame thrower. Each squad can operate as 2 fireteams independently. 
    • 1 HMG-detachment of 3 soldiers
    • 1 sniper
    • HQ-section with platoon-leader and 2 medics
    • After turn 12 if rules include vehicles or skilled troops: A QRF consisting of 1 truck with a HMG and a section of 10 'veterans' with a LMG and a bazooka arrives from the next village. Only if Lumbaya is still held by Katangese forces. Since these rules doesn't support vehicles, the QRF enters the village at foot.
  • UN:
    • 1 Platoon of 3 rifle-squads each of 8 soldiers and a LMG. The squads can operate independently.
    • 1 Light mortar-detachment of  2 soldiers and an observer
    • 1 bazooka-detachment of 3 soldiers
    • HQ-section with platoon-leader
    • 1 Jeep with HMG and 2 soldiers. Since these rules do not include vehicles, the Jeep stayed stationary with the HMG at the deployment-area acting a 1 unit, but due to short firing ranges never come close enough to enter combat.
  • Since these rules doesn't include any heavy weapons, I just rolled a dice for any weapons and let all of them have the same range.
  • Katangese: To hold the strongpoint of Lumbaya. Can request QRF-support as mentioned in the force-section from turn 12 if still holding whole or part of the strongpoint.
  • UN: To take and hold the strongpoint of Lumbya, preferably within 12 turns, and take control on as many Katangese gendarms located there as possible.
Close Wars by Donald Featherstone. Free wargame rules for army men


Time:    1 hour and 40 minutes
Turns:   18 (!)
Result:  UN defeat

Due to the short weapon ranges and not including any heavy weapons for support, this was a rush for the UN forces to get to a cover close enough for the their short weapon range:

Close Wars by Donald Featherstone. Free wargame rules for army men

The UN forces made initially some successful hits in the Katangese line of defence, and used the opportunity to try to brake into their defensive positions...

Close Wars by Donald Featherstone. Free wargame rules for army men

...and managed. But from this point on the Katangese Gendarmerie fought real well, and the UN didn't make any further advancement into the village.

Close Wars by Donald Featherstone. Free wargame rules for army men

This was the situation for so long time and so many turns, that the Katangese QRF arrived in turn 12:

Close Wars by Donald Featherstone. Free wargame rules for army men

This was finally what made the UN advancement come to an definite halt, and those few UN soldiers left who managed to enter the village was either killed or taken as prisoner of war after heroic street fighting. But they didn't give up very easy.

Close Wars by Donald Featherstone. Free wargame rules for army men
Impetus Bonus!!


  • Impetus Bonus gives a +1 for surprising when emerging from cover and achieved an ambush
  • It's simple and can be played with easily available and cheap army men or toy soldiers from a lot of different periods.
  • Retreating forces (due to a moral check) have to dice to see if the're routing or can go back to battle.
  • Really fast playing


  • It's just too simple and doesn't divide weapons into groups by their damage potential.
  • It doesn't include any vehicles.
  • The turn sequence seems unclear. I played it I Go, You Go.
  • What really happens to  wounded; hits that makes a save also seems unclear. I let them just fight on.


Due to lack of rules for different weapons with longer range and higher damage-potential, this was a very uncomplicated, interesting, intense and very fast playing game. With the limited weapon-ranges this is truly 'Close Wars'. As mentioned, I don't think these rules are made for modern battles or this scale, but I'm surprised how extremely well they worked for such after all. I would consider to play this in a smaller scale than I did (with my 54mm soldiers). Perhaps 20mm would be more suitable? And perhaps a period and units without a lot of hevy weapons. If you have only time for a quickie, consider this game.

Please follow this blog for some few more AAR on free wargame-rules to come...


  1. I like how subtle differences in uniform schemes show the different factions.

    1. Thanks!
      Those differences are also possible to make for the different UN- factions or nations as well. Some of the UN troops had khaki uniformes and blue helmets. I painted the Toy Story Army Men that way.

  2. Very interesting to see these rules used for modern warfare. Still, it reads like it played well despite the limitations.

    FWIW, I tend to think of "Saves" as close-calls, minor scratches, bullet struck a flask, etc. and leave the figure to fight as if nothing happened.

    If you're interested, Featherstone's simple modern (i.e WWII but you can file off the serial numbers) rules from Wargames : Battles and Manoeuvres With Model Soldiers might work better for this type of game (same book that has Close Wars in it). The infantry units are 10 figures and nominally a company, but the vehicle rules seem very much 1:1.

    I'd be happy to scan them for you (well, using my phone) if you'd like,

    1. Thanks! I haven't seen those other rules from Donald Featherstone, but I'd really like to see them.
      If it's not much trouble you can email me them on rogerhalvorsen [att]

    2. I just sent them over. Enjoy!

    3. Thanks John! I recived them today, so I'll have a look at them.
      The impression so far it seems like to focus more on vehicles than infantry and in a kind even simpler than 'Close Wars'. At least for the infantry that goes. -At that was very playable ;-)

  3. I hopefully have now managed to leave a comment! I have put a link to this Close Wars post on my Pound Store Plastic Warriors Blog

    1. Thank you. Thats very kind!
      Now I've edited the settings on this blog, so now you can comment. I think it was sett to 'only Google-users' as to prevent spam.
      Your excellent blogs contributed me to start wargaming and using cheap army men for the purpose. Really inspiering!


You may also be interested in: