Sunday, August 6, 2017

Fife & Drum AWI Rules Tutorial

Each turn the general for each army rolls one D10 die for the initiative. The player that rolls the higher die gets to choose either to Move First/Fire Second or Move Second/Fire First.

A number of people have asked me to post a rules tutorial thread for my Fife & Drum Rules for the AWI. So please read the thread and look at the illustrated pictures that provide examples of how to play the game. As always, please click or double click on any picture to enlarge the view. All of the pictures in this tutorial are annotated with comments to help you understand the rules, so I would encourage every reader to click on all pictures to read the comments and explanations.

Summary Overview

The Fife & Drum Rules for the AWI are an easy to learn set of rules that are printed on one side of a sheet of 8-1/2 by 11-inch sheet of paper. I have been using these rules for hosting my convention games going back to approximately 1995. I find that game players are able to understand the basics of movement, firing, melee and morale by the second game turn. This in turn indicates that the players can then focus on the battle and their tactics rather than worrying about how to work the rules.

I believe that the reason why the rules are easy to understand lie in the fact that the mechanics for determing firing, melee and morale are all the same. So if you understand how to fire a regiment of figures, then a similar mechanism make it easy for you to figure out how to do a melee or take a morale test.

The rules are free for downloading on the Fife & Drum Miniatures web site

Game Turn Sequence

1) Initiative Die Roll:  Each game turn begins with the two army commanders rolling a D10 die to determine which side has the first initiative for that turn. The higher die score wins the initiative. Any ties in the die roll are rerolled. This gives the winning general a choice of either:

a) moving first and firing second

b) firing first and moveing second

As one might imagine, it is usually best to have the first fire on each turn and to allow the opponent to move first. The winning general makes this choice each turn. In some instances, it may be beneficial for one side to want to move its forces first rather than firing first. For example, the winner of the initiative might want to announce a charge into the rear or flank of the opponent, before the opponent can change its facing. In this example, having the first move would allow for a charge into the opponent's flank.

2) Rally shaken or routing units
A general may attempt to rally any routed units during this phase. All rallies from a rout are conducting on the "C Chart" of the morale tables. A Shaken unit may restore good order status either through a rally dice roll or by remaining stationary for a full turn after the turn that it went to Shaken status.

3) Movement and announcing of charges
The side that has the first movement initiative can now move any units and/or announce any charges that it would like to make. After Side A moves, then Side B may move and/or conduct a charge.

4) Firing Phase
Firing of muskets and artillery are done during this phase. The side that has the First Fire initiative will fire any units that have a target. The other side will have to test morale for any losses that it receives during the firing phase before it can return fire.

5) Melee Phase
When two or more units announce charges during the movement phase, and they come into contact with one another, then the resulting melee will be fought after all firing is completed.

All melees last only one round - the attacking unit either wins the melee, or if there is a tie or it loses, then the attacker will retire back towards its own lines. For example, the charging unit and the defender both lose 3 figures in the melee. This is a tie; however, since it is incombant for the attacker to win the melee, a tie is considered to be a repulse of the charge, so the attacker falls back.

6) Morale Test Phase

Any unit that took casualties on the turn will have to test its morale at this point of the game, if it has not already done so (i.e. the unit is required to test morale if it receives casualties during the Firing Phase.

7)  Reserve Moves Phase
Any unit that is 30-inches or more away from any enemy unit may take an extra movement at this point. The reserve movement ends the moment the moving unit moves within the 30-inch distance from an enemy unit.

The Game Charts

The Fife & Drum rules use a game chart that is consulted to determine the effects of firing, melee and morale. All three charts are similar in appearance, each having five columns labelled A, B, C, D and E. Each column has eleven rows of numbers that correspond to the type of unit that is doing the firing, meleeing and morale testing.

Below each of the sections: Firing, Melee and Morale, there is a column of Procedures that explain how to do the related function. The Firing Procedures column explains the differences in the targets A through E. In most cases, the C Target is the most likely to be used during the game since both opponents will usually be in a Line Formation in the open without any cover.

Annotations illustrate how to find the required number on one D10 die.

Melee and Morale functions are determined in the same manner as the Firing function. First look for the Unit Type in the far left column, then examine the Melee or Morale columns to assess which of the columns, A through E, that fits your unit's situation. This produces a number and your dice have to roll a number that is equal to or less than that number.

Annotations illustrate how to test morale

The one-sided rules sheet is divided into five larger columns, from left to right:

1) Unit Type

2) Movement

3) Firing

4) Melee

5) Morale

Each of the above columns is further divided into eleven rows. Each row represents a category of troop types that typically fought in the AWI. The troop types are shown below and are located in the left-most column on the rules page.

Unit Type or Troop Type
1a) Grenadiers/Guards/Light Cos.
1b) British/Hessian/French Regulars
1c) Continentals and Loyalists
1d) Riflemen, Jagers - unformed troops
1e) Militia
1f) Indians - unformed
1g) Cavalry
1h) Heavy Artillery (over 9-pounds)
1i) Medium Artillery (6-8 pounds)
1j) Light Artillery (3-4 pounds)
1k) Amusettes (1-2 pounds

Movement Rates
Each troop type has its own distinct movement rate depending on its formation:

Road March

Some troop types will move faster than those of lesser quality troops. For example, British Regulars move 10-inches in line formation compared to 8-inches for Continentals and Loyalist or 6-inches for militia.

Firing Columns
There are five columns marked "A" through "E" on the chart. Each of these columns represent a different type of target ranging from easiest to hit ("A") to the most difficult to hit ("E"). In most instances the "C" column will be used

Below the Firing column is another column labeled "Firing Procedures". It helps you to determine the class of the target, depending on the type of formation that it is in. In most cases, both sides will be classed as C Targets since they will probably be in Line Formation out in the open.

Melee Columns
Using the same mechanical process as the Firing Chart, assess  whether your unit has a Major Advantage (Column A), a Minor Advantage (Column B),  Equal = no advantage (Column C), a Minor Disadvantage (Column D) or a Major Disadvantage (Column E).

Then locate the row (left hand column on the page) that corresponds to your Unit Type and move across the Melee tables to the appropriate column A through E. In most cases, the two sides will have no advantage over the other, which results in use of Chart C in melee. Locate the "hit number" in the correct column and then roll your D10 dice trying to score a roll at your hit number or less to inflict a casualty on the opponent.

Morale Columns
Casualties are cumulative in the game for morale purposes. This means that the more casualties the unit has in the game, the lower down the alphabet list A through E you go. The lower letter generates a lower number to pass your morale. For example, a Continental unit needs an 8 or less to pass morale in the A Chart (1-4 cumulative casualties in the game), but when casualties grow to 5 to 7, then you have to check morale on the B Chart and the Continentals need a die roll of 5 or less to pass morale. Thus as casualties increase, it becomes harder to pass morale.

Examples of game play for the various phases

Examples of Firing

Class A Target: firing into the flank or rear of the target.

Class B Target: firing into a column or any formation that is deeper than two stands of figures.

Class C Target (the most common target in the game): the target is in a line formation out in the open.

Class D Target Examples.

Roll one D10 for each skirmisher figure. Hits are made on a roll of 1 or 2.

Determining the number of dice to roll in the firing phase

Example of the British firing; they get one D10 for every four figures firing. Artillery at long range get on D10 for every crew figure and two D10 per crew figure at short range (to depict cannister fire).

Example of Americans firing.

American firing hits and misses on D10 dice.
British firing example. The British unit started the game with 32 figures, but has received 3 casualties prior to its firing on this turn. The resulting 29 figures are rounded down to "28", which is divisible by 4. Since the unit will get one die for every four figures, it will get to throw 7 dice on this turn. In the example above, the British need a D10 score of 5 or less to hit the American target. Two of the dice have scores higher than 5 so they are misses. The five D10 with scores of 5/5/5/4/4 will all be hits. Thus the American unit receves five hits on this turn.

Artillery Firing Mechanics: short range and long range targets

Artillery fire is conducted at either Short Range or Long Range. The definitions of Short or Long vary depending on the size of the cannon (for example, a 12-pounder has a Short Range of 12-inches and Long Range of 48-inches; however, a 6-pounder has a Short Range of 10-inches and a Long Range of 36-inches).

An artillery piece firing at Long Range will get one D10 for each crew member (excluding crew casualties). See example below:

Example of a British cannon firing at long range. In this case, a score of "3" is required to put a hit on the target. so it only registers one hit based on the dice rolled in the picture above. The 6/5/4 dice scores missed.

Determining the number of dice for long range shooting. One D10 per crew figure.

At Short Range, the artillery model will get two D10 dice for each crew member that is still alive. So this doubles the number of dice used compared to Long Range and simulates the increased effectiveness of artillery fire at Short Range due to cannister fire or accuracy.

Determining the number of dice for short range firing. Each crew figure gets two D10 dice, or double the number of dice received for long range targets.

When two or more units come into contact with one another for a melee, both sides will calculate the number of D10 dice that it will get to roll based on the "one D10 per four figures" mechanism that is also used to determine firing. The dice will then be rolled and compared to a required "hit number" found in the morale charts. A die roll of that number or less produces a hit. Die roll scores above the "hit number" are misses and do not count.

After the number of hits are assessed for each side, the side that has the most casualties in the melee will test its morale first. If it passes its morale test, then the other side will proceed to test the morale of its unit/units that were involved in the melee.

If both sides pass their morale without a Rout or Shaken result, the attacker is considered to have failed to dislodge the defender from its position and so it must immediately retire back towards its own lines the required number of movement inches. Attackers that fall back as a result of going Shaken or failing to dislodge the defender will do so facing the enemy. Attackers that Rout will run away with its backs facing the enemy.

Melees will last only one round and the loser of the melee will retire back towards its own lines either at 16-inches for infantry or 24-inches for cavalry.


The morale test for any unit that took casualties during a turn is done by rolling at least two D10 dice and comparing the results with a required number found in the morale charts. For example, if a unit's number required to pass morale is an "8", then both dice must be "8 or less" for the unit to pass its morale test. The player checking morale can gain extra dice to roll, which increases it probability of passing morale. If more than two D10 dice are rolled, then the player will select the two dice that provide a favorable outcome for the test.

For example, if an American unit needs a score of "8" or less, and it rolls three D10 dice with scores of "10"/"8"/"5", then it can discard the "10" score because it is a fail (higher than the required number to pass morale). The American player retains the "8" and "5" scores on the other two dice and as a result, it passes its morale test.

If a morale dice roll fails on two of the retained dice, then the result is a Rout and the unit will immediately move away from the enemy. If the dice roll fails on one D10 and passes on the other D10, then the unit goes Shaken (or disordered, if you prefer that term).

Morale Test Example

Example of a Rout morale result.




  1. A most interesting read,thanks for the tutorial.

  2. Thanks for the very clear explanation , Tony

  3. Much appreciated Jim, all my questions answered without even being asked!

    1. Thank you for giving me the little nudge to get this tutorial done. It is something that I have wanted to do for quite a long time.

  4. Thank you for posting this. What a great illustrated guide to the rules. First class.

  5. ( Almost ) " Back of a Postcard " rules , we,ll certainly be giving these a go very soon. Great to see well tested rules being posted for use / discussion as opposed to £30 a time books full of eye candy photos.

    1. I squeezed a lot of things onto a single page, but removed a lot of things that I deemed unnecessary.

      I am happy to be able to give copies of the rules away for free. With the internet, blogs and desktop publishing, it is a lot easier these days cooking up something with some nice eye candy and just turning it into a PDF document.

  6. Agreed! A really nice walk-through of your rules. How did you decide to use d10s instead of six-sided dice or others?

    Best Regards,

    1. D10s smooth out the probilities of the outcomes a bit more compared to a D6.

      Also, I had tons of D10 dice from my days of playing Rusty's Rules. :)

      The D10 dice have been very effective and easy to understand for players over the years. Remember, these started out as rules for use at wargaming conventions with the idea that they would be easy to learn.

  7. This clarifies everything. Thanks for sharing.

  8. That is some post.

    I'll need to find some spare time to read it.

  9. This is awesome! Thank you. I'm going to give these a try!

  10. jim, this is a very useful tutorial..many thanks. While I will uses the Grant TWG rules for big mid-18th century battles, I will use these for AWI. They seem purpose built & have a great feel. The smaller units will also feel more suitable for the period, too. Cheers, Rohan.

  11. I'm still confused on the melee. Is outcome based solely on the morale tests afterward or does side with more casualties automatically loose after the morale tests? The last senntence, "Melees will last only one round and the loser of the melee will retire back towards its own lines either at 16-inches for infantry or 24-inches for cavalry." is confusing me.

  12. The two sides melee and their respective casualties are determined. The side with the highest number of casualties tests morale first. If it passes, then the other side tests its morale. If both sides passed their morale test, then we consider that the attacker failed to dislodge the defender from its position, ergo, the attacker was not successful and is required to retire from the point of the melee.

    Now of course, during the morale tests one of the sides could fail its test and either go shaken ( in which it retires) or routs.

    The main concept is that the onus is on the attacker to carry a position.

  13. Ok, I understand now. The rules sheet I have says,"All melees last 2 rounds....". You must have changed the procedure since then. It's probably simpler to do it the way you describe above. Thanks for the reply.

    1. Hi Mitch: yes, after some discussion on the Fifeanddrumminis forum, I decided to go with the idea of one melee round for the reasons mentioned above. You could elect to continue the melee for a second turn if you prefer, but I like the quicker new melee system - same procedure, just one less round of it.