Update: New Advanced Options!

See bottom of page!

Operation Sandtrap

Rules for Toy Army Soldiers

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

This is a simple, easy game for play in the backyard or on the beach. Our goal is to make it fast, fun, enjoyable and cheap. So let's get to the tools and requirements so you know what you need:

Toy soldiers (at least 30 per side)

Tanks, APCs or half tracks, artillery, etc.

1 pair of dice

Kite string

Wide plastic cup and a small to medium sized plastic beach bucket

A paper or plastic disk or wire thingie marked off into quarters

How it works:

Stake out the battlefield - decide its borders. For the basic game, divide it into thirds. The middle is "no man's land," while each army gets one of the end areas. Each sets up in his area.

A roll of the dice starts the game - high roller gets to move first. He moves, then his opponent moves. Then both sides get to fire simultaneously. After firing, the moving starts again - one, the other, and so on. The game ends when one army is wiped out or the objectives are taken.

An army is wiped it when it loses all of its heavy firepower and 3/4 of its troops.

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

Take kite string and cut it into these lengths:

Divide the strings into thirds by typing a knot to mark off each section. These strings make it easy to determine range.  (Note - you can use lengths other than feet.  For 1/72 figures, you might prefer half a foot; for 12 inch figures, you might opt for a yard - click the link to The Basics if you need more information.)

There are two kinds of range - heavy weapons range and Infantry weapons range. Heavy weapons range uses the longer strings, thus R4 means a four foot string, R1 means 1 foot, etc. Infantry weapons use the one foot string and are rated as I - 3 (the whole string), I -2 (2/3 the string) and I-1 (I/3 the string) We show them this way. For heavy weapons, there are a long, medium and short range. First third of a string is close range, the second medium, and the last segment is long range.


Each vehicle and weapon can resist a certain amount of firepower. We rate the power of a weapon numerically. Each weapon has a range, which is how far it can fire. Within its range, it has long, medium and short range. The closer the range, the easier it can aim and the more damage it does. Here are the weapons, how many shots they fire per round, and their damage.

Shots per round are in parenthesis.

Light cannon - R2 -(2)- 3-2-1

Medium cannon - (1) R4 5-4-2

Heavy Cannon - (1) R6 9 -5 -4

Bazooka, recoilless rifle - (1) R1, 4-4-4

Heavy Machine Gun R2 (10) 2-2-1

Light Machine Gun (10) I-3 2

Rifle - I-3 - (1) - 1

Pistol - I-1 - (1) - 1

Submachine Gun I-2 - (5) - 1

Man-carried Flamethrower 1-2 - (1) 4

Tank Flamethrower R1 -(1) - 5

Explosives don't cause harm by hitting a thing, but by exploding in an area. When an explosive lands, determine where it hit. That is the center. Place the center of the bucket or cup over the place that is hit. Everything inside that ring gets as much damage as the bomb can do.

We show each weapon by how far it can be shot, how wide an area it blows up, and how much damage it does within that area:

Hand Grenade I-2 Cup: 1

Small mortar R2 Cup - 1

Big Mortar R3 - bucket - 2

Light cannon - R3 - cup-2

Medium cannon - R4 - bucket - 2

Heavy cannon - R6 - bucket - 3

What if a tank is in an explosion? If part of the tank has armor equal to or lighter than the explosion, and that part is within the blast area, it is destroyed.

Tank cannons cannot be used for explosions. Only artillery guns and self-propelled artillery can launch bombs. If a tank fires to cause an explosion, it always does Cup-2 damage. Tank guns are meant to fire at objects, not deliver explosive ordnance

Vehicle Armor

Did you know that the armor on front of a tank is thicker than its sides? It is, so when we discuss vehicles, we rate the armor in a number sequence representing in this order: Front, Side, Rear. A light tank is 3-2-2, meaning its front armor is a 3 and its sides and rear are 2.

Light tank - 3-2-2

Medium tank - 5-4-2

Heavy tank 8- 5 -2

Half Track, APC 2-2-1

Armored car 2-2-2

Jeep, truck - 1-1-1

Soldier - 0

Cannon -2-2-2

Self-propelled Gun - 3-2-1

Concrete bunker - 4

Dirt bunker - 2

Note that an open vehicle has no protection on top. If a soldier throws a grenade into it, or its open area is inside a blast circle, it gets only 1-1-1 protection.

Vehicle Speed

Vehicles can go faster on roads, but not so fast in some places, and in others not at all! Here's the speed for On Road, Off Road, steep hill/rough ground

Jeep, truck: 3-1-0

Light Tank, SP Gun 3-2-1

Tank, APC, half track - 2-1-1

Armored car - 3-2-0

Man running - I - 2

Man crawling I-1


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.  It does not slow tracked vehicles.  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 and tracked 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, Passes, Tunnels: when a unit comes to a cross a bridge or go through a narrow pass or tunnel, 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.


It is easier for some guns to be turned than others. Yes, you can outrun the gun. Here's how far a gun can traverse per move

Heavy machine gun, infantry weapons - full circle

Light tank - 3/4

Medium tank - 1/2

Heavy tank, heavy mortar, cannon, tank destroyer, assault gun - 1/4

Machine guns and fast firing weapons

When firing at vehicles or large targets, machine guns and light cannons fire all their shots at one target. When shooting and men, they fire all their shots into an area the size of the cup. Those closes to them are shot first.

Hitting Target

Pick your target. Aim the strong from the firing gun or tank to target and determine range. Roll 2 dice

For heavy weapons, you need to roll a 4 or more to his at close range, 7 or more for medium range, and 9 or more for long range

For infantry weapons, a 7 or more is needed at any range.

For explosives - mortars and cannons dropping bombs, pick a target and throw one dice. 1 means your bomb landed short - 1 full circle to the front of the target. 2 means you landed Long - 1 full circle past the target.

3 means you landed one full circle to the left, and 4 is one full circle to the right. 5 and 6 are right on target. Bombs don't go away if they miss - they fall to one side. This means you can't fire bombs too close to your own troops.

Infantry - in foxholes or trenches get an armor of 2 for protection against bombs. In a concrete bunker it is 4

Special infantry rules

Infantry are assumed to "hit the deck" when shooting starts. No extra points for aiming at a standing man. When infantry is killed, it is removed from the battlefield.

When two units come within R1 of each other, they stop for 1 turn and exchange fire.

If one infantry unit charged into another, they fight hand-to-hand. This means that you eliminate one figure from each side until one side outnumbers the other 2 to 1.The outnumbered men are captured. One soldier may march up to 8 enemy prisoners. If the guard makes it to enemy lines, the troops remain captured there until either the end of the battle or rescue by friendly forces. If the guard is killed before reaching enemy lines, the prisoners escape. They must first go back to friendly lines before they can fight again.

Other Rules

Destroy rule - if the hitting power of your weapon, at the range you hit the enemy, exceeds the armor facing you, he is destroyed.  Destroyed vehicles get flipped over.  If your power equals his, roll one dice.  1,2,3 means you got him, 4, 5, 6 means your shell bounced.

The Contact rule - when units come within R2 of each other, they stop. They can then choose to fight or wait until the next turn to move again. This is like real combat, where troops pause once battle is initiated.

Artillery rule - a gun must begin battle with 5 crewmen. These may not leave the gun unless they are chased off. If attacked, they will defend as infantry. Gun crews cannot attack as infantry. If the gun crew is reduced to 3 men, it fires at half speed. If reduced to 2 men, it fires at 1/4 speed. One man alone cannot man a gun.

Tank Destroyer - a light armored vehicle that carries a heavy gun, for use against tanks. A tank destroyer can be a half track, APC or armored car. Naturally, it has to use speed and cover to prevent itself from getting hit.

Cover rule - if half or more of a vehicle is behind cover, add 3 to a dice roll for hitting. This includes only have weapons, such as tanks firing behind dugouts or hills where only the turret is exposed, tank destroyers, etc. Cover rule does not apply to infantry, since it is assumed they will take cover.

Other battle types:

One army sets up a defense and the other attacks. Defenders must prevent the enemy from driving them off. They win when the enemy is unable to do so.

Objective - one or both armies have an objective to take and hold for several turns. If they take and hold it long enough, they win. If they cannot hold it, they lose.

Breakout - a unit is defending itself inside enemy territory. The attack has to link up with them before they are wiped out.


A good balance is to have 3 to 5 tanks per every 30 to 50 infantry

Too many of any vehicle makes the game clumsy - try to make a balanced army.

When in doubt, flip a coin.  That will be the rule for the duration of the game.  Later, you can append rules as you see fit.

Click here for Advanced Options for Operation Sandtrap!  Special rules for specific WW2 and Modern Era tanks, based on the real thing.  Click here!

Suggested Advanced Rules of Engagement

For those who want a more intense game

Of course, our basic Operation Sandtrap rules are spare. They are a quick and fast rule set for all ages. Those who want something more realistic will need to append the rules. Maybe you have, and maybe you are planning to do so.

The character of your rules will depend on the character of the players. The rules will be straightforward for folks who want a challenging, balanced game. They will be limiting for those who would rather win than have fun. (I have seen too many of the latter. They usually end up in little "arms races" with each other, and argue over the rules whenever things start going against them. They are idiots.)

Here are a few suggestions and ideas of our own:

Loaders: there is a class of light weapon that usually has a shooter and at least one loader. These include shoulder-fired rocket launchers (bazookas), light and heavy machine guns, .and small mortars, such as the 60mm Mortar. We recommend that each such weapon be accompanied by a loader. The weapon retains its rate of fire so long as it has the second crewman. If the crewman leaves or is taken out, the rate of fire drops to half for the next and subsequent moves. Only replacement of the loader will bring back the full rate of fire. Adding a second or third loader does not increase the rate of fire further.

This rule applies to weapons such as:

This list is not complete, but should serve as an example.

Radiomen: a unit has to have a radioman to receive commands, once it is three moves or more from its commander or headquarters. It also has to have a radioman to call in artillery and support. Units without radiomen and more than three moves away will continue to carry our their last orders and then hold. Only by sending a runner can the unit be given new orders. A replacement radioman can be sent.

If the unit is contacted directly by a unit with a radioman, it can receive an order. However, it cannot act on that order until the next move.

Tanks are assumed to have a radio.

Minesweepers: in the real world, minesweepers belong to combat engineer units. The old magnetic style minesweepers have gone out of vogue, since newer mines use non-magnetic materials. For our purposes, a minesweeper is a combat engineer. His presence with a unit will facilitate getting through obstacles, such a fences, revetments, etc.

Obstacles. There are natural and man-made obstacles on any battlefield.

Direct Fire Weapons: these include firearms, machine guns, bazooka-type weapons, antitank weapons and tank guns. You can only fire these at targets your gunner / shooter can see. Targets moving through a forest cannot be seen except when they are close to the edges. Ditto for targets in a fog bank, etc. They only become visible when they fire at you, or when they come into direct view of the gunner / shooter.

Of course, you can use indirect fire on any target. Artillery and mortars can be called in to drop ordnance on an area. The enemy will either move or continue to be shelled. (It pays to have a radioman, a mortar squad and a few field-pieces). The enemy has to reveal what items are destroyed when a concealed unit is shelled. You might want to make it easier with a rule that states that any unit being shelled reveals itself. This is something you and your opponents must decide before a battle.

Bridges: determine the type of bridges before the game; Footbridges can only accommodate foot traffic. Light bridges will handle jeeps and trucks, and some of the stronger light bridges can handle half tracks, APCs, SP guns and light tanks. Medium bridges will handle everything up to medium tanks. A stronger bridge would be needed for heavy tanks. (Use of bridges can limit heavy tanks, making a game more challenging.)

Concealed movement suggestions for rules:

Organize your troops into the units that will go forward together. For each such task group of infantry and tanks and others, take a circle of paper five inches wide and ten inches long. Write on one side what is in that unit, task group - how many vehicles and what type, how many soldiers, etc. On the other, mark a unit number - say Task Unit 1, Task Unit 2, etc.

Begin a battle by placing these on the ground with the unit number showing "face up" and the unit tally on the underside. Move them as you would real units, at the speed of the slowest unit. (this is why it is a good idea to have trucks or APCs for the infantry). All the enemy knows is that someone is there, but he won't know the unit's exact size until it gets close enough to see. Once a unit is seen, all pieces are placed on the battlefield.

To see a unit, you need to have reconnaissance. That means fast scout units or air recon (Hey, here's a use for helicopters!). When troops come into line of sight, they are exposed and placed. Determine how far a scout can see - perhaps R4. A man with binoculars is considered a forward observer, and can see R5 or R6 (this you must determine with your opponents before starting a game). If there is something between your scout / observer and the enemy, he cannot see them even if they are within range. Being behind or deep within woods, behind a town behind a hill, ridge, in a gully, etc. keeps them out of sight until they are visible to the direct view of the scout.

For air reconnaissance, a unit in the open will be seen momentarily by the aircraft. Roll a die. 1-2 means the pilot saw the entire unit. 3-4 means he saw 60%, and 5-6 means he only saw 20%. This amount of all types - infantry ,tanks, etc - must be placed on the board. Factors which affect air recon cause the die roll to be adjusted by adding or subtracting to the final number:

You can develop other factors. In this case, the lower the number, the more that is exposed.

A unit can be concealed by having artillery provide smoke as covering fire. However, it must remain in the smoke and move back into concealment or remain hidden. Likewise, a unit cannot fire while engulfed in smoke - this goes for the concealed unit and the opponents, as well.

Morale suggested rules

Morale: call it fighting spirit, esprit de corps or the will to stand, morale has a greater effect than many suppose. In the old days of wargaming, morale was called to see if a unit would hold or fold. The way to differentiate elite units, in those days ,was to give them a better morale status. We know that in real life, elite status is fighting spirit plus fighting ability. So how is this handled on the play battlefield?

Mostly, it is ignored by folks who just want a fast game. However, some folks want it stated clearly. Morale is not a hard principle to apply. I admit that in these rules, any suggested morale will be like that used by gamers in the 60s.

A unit will operate normally until it makes contact with the enemy. Contact is what erodes morale. A unit will need a morale check if:

Roll one die. 1 - 3 the unit holds. 4 it moves back 1/2 move. 5 it moves back 1 move. 6 it routs two moves. In case of a rout, the unit can affect others it might pass through. If a routing unit passes through a friendly unit of smaller size, that unit must also check morale. Units of larger or equal size need not check morale if passed by routing unit.

The rout can be stopped if the routing unit is checked by an officer. However, that officer and his unit must hold heir position for the next move. The routing unit rolls moral die again. 1-3 means the officer stops the rout, 4-6 the officer fails and the unit keeps running. A stopped unit must hold one move.

Here are some items that will affect morale:

You can devise other things that will affect morale in your rules.

Morale adds a new factor to the games. Real troops react to fear, but plastic ones do not. Since our plastic troops do not react emotionally to danger, we need to simulate it with the morale rules.

Click here for Advanced Options for Operation Sandtrap!  Special rules for specific WW2 and Modern Era tanks, based on the real thing.  Click here!

 Toy Soldiers?  More Games?  Click here for Army Men!