Peking Round The Corner!

I’ve now managed to get in my first wargame of the year, and a Boxer Rebellion game at that!

Late last year I spent some time painting a few figures here and there for my Boxer Rebellion forces, and adding some extra tweaks to the 19th Century rules I’ve got (Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe 1815-1878, by Neil Thomas) to allow them to be used for this conflict.  I wasn’t sure how my own additions to the rules would work, since it was really quite a jump moving from single-shot to bolt-action rifles, adding in machine guns and trying to cater for the variety of Chinese troop types.  So the game was a bit of a test really.

Despite its name, I actually didn’t use any Boxers in this game and opted for Allied forces taking on Chinese “regular army” units (and I’ve written it that way since most Chinese army units were anything but regular in a conventional sense).  I’ve also planned on doing a couple of posts in the not too distant future about my Boxer Rebellion wargames forces for those that might be interested.

This game was also the first time I’d used my Cigar Box Battles gaming mat – although it’s meant to be for a European setting, I thought it looked fine for this game.  I wasn’t sure at first, but once the buildings and trees were laid out I quite liked it.  These mats are not cheap, but they’re good quality fleece material and I think you get what you pay for (I’ve got it stashed away in case the dogs find it and think it’s a new blanket for them).


The basic action saw an Allied force, on its way to Peking by road, having to assault a village en route that the Chinese had fortified in an attempt to hold up the foreign devils!  The Chinese had four infantry battalions in and around the village, supported by an irregular Mongol cavalry unit.  A gun battery covered the main road into the village along which the Allies would advance, another battery was held in reserve and light units occupied both wooded hills on the flanks of the village (a unit of Tigermen, a rocket battery and a jingal unit – a jingal is a gun somewhere between a sniper rifle and light anti-tank gun in size.


The initial Allied force consisted of two Russian infantry battalions and a Cossack regiment.  Following behind them, and appearing a move later on the table, were two Japanese infantry battalions.  Finally appearing half a dozen moves later came a Russian artillery battery.  The attackers seem at first glance to be insufficient for the task ahead of them, but all of the Allied troops carry magazine rifles that outrange the Chinese infantry and put out a greater volume of fire.  I also deliberately delayed the arrival of the Russian artillery to avoid the situation where it just sat backed and shelled from long range – this forced the Allies to use their infantry to commence their attack.  All the troops are mounted on unit bases, since even in 1900 most infantry still fought in recognisable (although somewhat loose) regular formations – the rules take into account that units fought with skirmish lines up front, feeding in more troops to the firing line as the action developed.


Initially, the Russians closed on the village but, with the arrival of the Japanese, they started to move to the left and engage the Tigermen and rocket unit on the hill.  The Japanese deployed to the right, but moved up closer to the village to engage the Chinese infantry there and the jingal unit on the hill on that flank.  While all of this was taking place the Chinese gun battery in the village kept up a furious fire, in all cases failing to hit anyone!


To cover their left, the Chinese moved up an infantry battalion and the Mongol cavalry, these units deploying while the Russians were concentrating on the Tigermen.  Unfortunately, the sheer volume of fire from the Cossacks and Russian infantry decimated the Chinese, giving one of the infantry battalions the chance to charge the Tigermen and sweep them from the hill.


As one of the Russian infantry battalions occupied the hill and started firing into the village, the other battalion moved up to occupy some outlying buildings, while the Cossacks swung round behind the hill to outflank the Chinese.


However, at such short range, the Chinese concentrated their fire on the Russians in the outlying buildings (who’d already taken some casualties while advancing) and shot them to bits.  This did, however, let the Cossacks get into a position where they could support the remaining infantry in a firefight on the Chinese right flank.  While this was going on, the Japanese, supported by the Russian artillery, had been gradually wearing down the Chinese on the other flank, although one of the Japanese battalions was roughly handled in the process.


However, the sheer volume of fire from the Allies paid off in the end.  With the Chinese gun batteries and one of the infantry battalions going under, the remaining two Chinese battalions decided that the time had come to pull out.


Fortunately, the buildings and woods screened the retreat of these two units, despite the Russians closing on the flank and firing at them.


So, defeat for the Chinese, needless to say commanded by myself!  But it was a good, fast-paced game, which is probably why I didn’t get enough photos taken.  The rule tweaks seemed to work quite well, magazine rifles proving deadly and cavalry proving very vulnerable (the Cossacks were lucky that they were never seriously shot at).  I’d have expected the Allies to win, but they still took their share of the casualties, so overall the simple rules give pretty realistic results.  I used lower grade Chinese army units deliberately this time to see how the two different sides behaved, but in future the Chinese will deploy units just as capable as the Allies, so it’ll be interesting to see how future games go.

As with previous games I’ve played with these rules, a two hour game delivered a conclusive result and it was good fun to boot!



  1. The mat looks great man! I’ve never heard of cigar box gaming mats but I’ll go have a look. All my mats are from I love that the Chinese guns kept a firing furiously but hit nothing haha. I love a fast paced game. I have a yearning to watch 55 days at Peking now. Great movie and haven’t seen it for about ten years

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks IRO! As I said, the mats aren’t cheap, but they are good quality and a little bit bigger than the usual 4ft x 6ft. My Chinese artillery normally does pretty well, but not this time round! I need to watch that film again – a good adventure even if not too accurate!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Great write up John, fascinating reading.
    It’s a great period to focus on, as the progress made in weapon technology really moved strategy and tactics along some, though it’s a time I’ve never been attracted to it myself, being more of an Ancient an Napoleonic wargamer.
    That Battle map looks awesome, as do the miniatures, and it really adds to the look of the game – I bet you had a great time!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I do like whole set up, figures and base looking great. 🙂 A good read and a fascinating period to game with such a clash of cultures and national identities. Bad luck on the loss, but the smart money would surely be on the Russian-Japanese (and 5 years later, between those two on the Japanese…).

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Marvin, and I agree with you completely! It’ll be interesting in future games to see how the Allies fare when the Chinese deploy more modern weaponry, although I’m betting I can lose in any situation! 🙂 I think I balanced the forces well enough, and an Allied win would be the expected outcome historically, but it proved quite a tough fight, with the Chinese successfully withdrawing at the last moment. But it was just as much about seeing how the rules worked for this later period, and I’m pretty pleased with them!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Great AAR and love the whole write up John. I have seen many Cigar Box battle mats and I think they are nice. I have not bought any as I have been more fond of the neoprene. But yours looked great – do you find them limiting as they have terrain already on them? That has been a concern for me – would love to hear your opinion. And to get a game like this done in two hours is pretty impressive. Sorry you lost, but having fun is most important. Let’s see you win next time though!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Mark! As far as the mat goes, it maybe is limiting, but I tried to pick one most suited for the games I want, primarily Western Europe from 1860 to 1945. It’s good for the roads and I can just place trees over the wooded areas using the mat to mark out the extent of the woods. I wasn’t sure how bits of scenery would look on it, but they’re not bad – my newer pieces, with predominantly earth texture and scatter grass, look better than my older bits with drybrushed green/yellow bases. But the unit bases I bought to use with my 19th Century rules look better on this mat because they’re predominantly earth-coloured.

      My biggest problem is storing it, since it’s bigger than the standard 6ft x 4ft mats and doesn’t fit rolled up into the storage bags unless it’s folded in half first. Having said that. it seems quite crease resistant and goes down well – you can also slide units across it easily and, because I put it over an old piece of felt, it resists moving or creasing! So, overall, I’m pleased with it!

      I think the simplicity of the rules is what lets you get a game completed in two hours, but still with (what appears to me) a quite realistic result. There were six Allied units (excluding the two command elements) and ten Chinese units and using unit bases (even though I’m not keen on them) speeds movement up a lot. It was a good, fun game!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Cheers mate, that’s much appreciated! I’ve always enjoyed Boxer Rebellion games – plenty of different uniforms, troop types and scenarios! It’s colonial warfare in look and feel, but where the sides can be quite well balanced!


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