Muskets and Sandpiles

Rules for American Revolution and the Alamo

Copyright 1998 - T. Sheil & A. Sheil - All Rights Reserved

These is a very simple wargame for play on beach or in backyard, with plastic toy soldiers. The focus is on a fast-action game, easy to learn and easy to play. Our game is for small battles, only - with armies of 100 men or less on each side.

NOTE: these rules are very similar to Sandpit Showdown.  There are essential differences in weaponry and command.  Certain weapons do not act the same in this game, as we have taken into account such things as flintlock pistols and the differences between muskets and rifles.  (In this era, rifles could not be fitted with a bayonet!  Only muskets had the bayonet attachment!)

Click here first - The Basics of the Sandy Hook Battle Games

Here's what you need:

Making tools:

String should be cut in lengths of 4 feet, 3 feet, 2 feet and one foot. Each string is then divided by thirds. You can tie a knot to separate each 1/3

The disk has to be four quarters. Draw a cross over the center to do this.

The battlefield:

On a normal battle field, the area is divided into zones. Each side takes an end area. The middle zone is "no man's land. Troops must move into no man's land to fight.

In a fort defense, the fort is on one end of the battlefield while the Indians or attackers start from the other end.

Save the Alamo is a version where a fort is already under attack, and its side must send troops to reinforce it before the enemy wipes it out. In Save the Alamo, the fort my be in No Man's land or even the enemy sector.

Defense: one side defends and wins if it keeps the attackers out, the other must get through and take an objective and hold it for five turns. You can also have a game where both sides have objectives. Use your imagination!


In a regular game, destroying or capturing all of an enemy's guns and wagons, and capturing or eliminating 2/3 of his army is victory.

Capturing or destroying his fort, in Save the Alamo or other siege games, is victory.

Holding the objective is also victory.

Troop types:

Infantry - soldiers who fight on foot

Cavalry - soldiers on horseback

Artillery - gun crewmen and cannons

Indians - fight as infantry or cavalry

Rangers - infantry armed with rifles


Each weapon has a range and a damage factor, both expressed in numbers. Each also has a rate of fire. Note that though some weapons fire more than once per round, they can only fire at one target per round.

Note that the throughout these rules, range is often given as R and a number, thus R2 is a range of 2.


The distance a piece can be moved per turn uses the same measurement as range.  This a move of 1 = R1


Flip a coin. The winner decides who moves first. On one side moves, then the other, then both sides shoot. That is the order of battle.

When one group of troops gets within R1 of an enemy, they must stop immediately. Both sides may shoot during the firing phase; they fire range 1

When two groups charge each other after stopping at R1, every man with a pistol gets a free shot. This goes for both sides. Others must fight hand-to-hand.


Different aspects of the land affect movement.  Here is how speed is affected:

Hills:  climbing a gently-sloping hill  - 10 degrees to 44 degrees- slows troops and wheeled vehicles speed by 1/3.  A steep hill - 45 to 80 degrees - slows them 2/3.  (Hills over 80 degrees can only be scaled by climbers with climbing gear.)  Wheeled vehicles and horses cannot climb steep slopes.

Going down hill on gentle slopes does not affect movement.  On steep slopes, movement is slowed by a third.

Rivers: on coming to a river, a unit must stop immediately.  If the river is fordable, all movement through the river is slowed by one half.  On climbing the far bank, the unit must stop.  

Bridges: when a unit comes to cross a bridge or go through narrow pass, choose one piece as the lead figure.  It moves as far as you wish, and everyone else follows behind.  

Lakes: crossing lakes involved using boats or barges.  It takes one move to get on the boat, and one move to get off.  A boat or barge can move R1 per turn.

Hand to Hand Fighting

Infantry  with muskets are considered to have bayonets.  Riflemen do not have bayonets!

Indians have spears, tomahawks or knives; riflemen are considered to have a war club

Indian archers have knives or tomahawks, not longer weapons

Cavalry and gunners have swords

Wagoners have bayonets if armed with rifles, swords if armed with pistols

Ranger officers have knives or tomahawks, riflemen are considered to have war clubs

Hand to Hand combat:

When troops clash, the men eliminate cancel each other out until one side outnumbers the other 2 to 1. The smaller side is captured and must be marched back to enemy lines. 1 soldier may march 8 prisoners. If the guard is killed before reaching his lines, the troops escape. If he gets them back, they must remain there until freed by their forces or the game is over. Behind enemy lines, you need only one man per 12 prisoners.

Cavalry count as 2 men each, EXCEPT when clashing with an army unit armed with muskets. If the musket unit is not already engaged in hand to hand combat with another unit, it makes cavalry fight as one man instead of 2.

Bayonets, swords and spears have more reach than other weapons. Therefore, when a unit armed with these weapons attacks a unit armed with a lesser weapon - knives, tomahawks or clubbed rifles - the unit with longer weapons inflicts extra kills. Each four men armed with longer weapons automatically eliminate one man plus those killed as troops cancel each other out. It is important to organize men with long weapons into units in order to have this bonus.


If prisoners are freed, they have to return to their own lines before they can rejoin the battle. If attacked, they may defend themselves, but as soon as the attack ends they have to continue back to their own lines.

Walls and bunkers

Different walls and bunkers stop the following kinds of damage:

Other items resist the following:

NOTE : regular ammunition will not destroy a wall. Cannons can destroy doors and wagons: artillery can also destroy walls.

Artillery rules

To fire, a gun must be in position.

When moving a gun, it is not in position. Once it stops, it must remain in position one move before firing.

A gun may be pushed or hooked to a caisson in one turn, but it cannot do both.

When cannons are dropped off a caisson, they must wait 1 turn before firing.

When you hook a cannon to a caisson, it can only travel « its normal rate in that turn.

A cannon cannot be hooked and unhooked in the same turn.

Gunners carry pistols and swords. They may fight as infantry to defend guns, but may not attack as infantry. If a gun crew loses its gun, it must be sent to reinforce another gun or artillery unit. Should there be no other guns, it may be dispatched to defend a position. At no time may gunners attack as infantry. When separated from the gun, they are strictly defensive.

Artillery chooses a target and fires. A die is rolled. 5 or 6 means a direct hit. A cup is placed over center of the blast, and everything inside is ruined or killed. If you roll a 3, the hit fell short and lands one cup-width to the front, 4 means to the rear, 5 to the left, 6 to the right. Again, a cup is placed over the center of the cup and everything inside is hit. (Of course, a stone wall will resist the blast. If the blast is outside the wall, everything inside remains untouched), This simulates a gun's tendency to be off target and create casualties also. And it shows why you never fire at a target too close to your troops!

At an attacking unit of troops R1 or closer, artillery fires grapeshot. This is a special "shell" made of numerous musket balls.  Lay the cup on its side, the bottom facing the gun. Everything under the gun is hit as if it were shot by rifles. Grapeshot can hit up to ten targets and it does 2 damage. Those troops and things closest to the gun are destroyed first.

Mortars fire high angle, and their shells land on top of objects. They cannot fire directly, but must lob shells in an arc. A mortar has the same range as a cannon, but it cannot fire at targets less than R1 from it. Mortars can fire over walls, however. They cannot fire grapeshot.

Range and hitting target

Remember how we divided each range cord into thirds? The third nearest the shooter is Close range, followed by Medium and ended by Long range. When you fire a gun, its range affects how well you hit target.

When you shoot a target, roll two dice. At close range, you need 6 or more to hit. At medium range, you need 8 or more. At long range, 10 or more.

If the enemy you fired at does not move, and you fire again, add 2 to your dice score.

If he is firing from inside a building other than a fort, or behind a wagon, subtract one from your dice score.

If he is fighting from behind a log wall or stone wall or fort, subtract 2 from your dice score. If he is not fighting, you cannot shoot him if he is behind a wall. However, if he fired or intends to fire, or if he is working a gun crew that is firing, he is fighting.

Hand-thrown weapons can only be used with close range on the R1 string. Roll 1 dice, 1.2.3 and 4 misses, 5 and 6 hit. (This includes knives, tomahawks and spears.)

Pistols can only be shot within medium range on the R1 scale.

Unit Rules

Rangers and other frontiersmen armed with rifles may operate in small groups, but regular soldiers armed with muskets must fight in units. You must have at least one officer for every fifteen regular soldiers. Riflemen like to snipe at officers. If a unit loses its officer, it will stay in place and do nothing except defend if attacked. If the unit loses more than half its men, it will retreat to its own lines unless an officer joins them. You need to send a new officer or have another unit with an officer intercept them.

In either case, it is still one officer per 15 men. Any unofficered men - more than 15 - will continue to retreat if retreating, or stand fast if defending.

Hessian troops respond to Hessian officers, but may not always respond to their allied British officers.  If Hessian troops are retreating because of losing an officer, and a british officer attempts to take command, roll 1 dice.  4, 5 or 6 means the Hessians respond to the British officer; 1,2 or 3 means they continue retreating.

Rangers, Indians and Frontiersmen are used to fighting alone, and do not need officers to stay in the fight,

These are very basic rules. Any questions, comments or suggestions can be emailed to us!

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Copyright 1998 - T. Sheil & A. Sheil - All Rights Reserved