Rules Directory:
The Men Who Would Be Kings

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TITLE:  The Men Who Would Be KingsMen Who Would

AUTHOR: Daniel Mersey

PUBLISHER: Osprey Wargames



    There is a forum on the Osprey web site, but no dedicated forum I know of.

PRICE (with date): $19.00 (in 2018)

REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin

PERIOD COVERED: The Colonial Period (roughly 1870-1920). Adaptable to many other conflicts.


As with most of the Osprey rule book series, The Men Who Would Be Kings (TMWWBK) is a slim paperback of 64 pages. It is printed in full color and makes good use of the existing Osprey artwork library. In addition, many of the illustrations and diagrams feature 25mm miniatures,

SCOPE: TMWWBK is designed for skirmish encounters.

ARMY SIZE: The “standard” force of 24 points will equate to 4 or 5 units of 8-16 models each. Accordingly players will be able to field a force with around 50 figures. The number of figures per unit is not strictly fixed - if you have slightly larger or smaller existing units, the game will adjust with no problems.


  • Figures each represent one man, organized in groups of between 8 and 16 figures.


  • Ground Scale: Not stated (ranges are noted as being deliberately distorted)
  • Time scale 1 turn = Not stated
  • Figure/Base Ratio: 1:1
  • Recommended Figure Size: 25mm or 15mm
  • Table Size: 4 x6 seems to be the size recommended for 24 point games.
  • Game Length: Most games should be playable in two hours or less.


There are no basing requirements. The author bases his individually, but exampls in the book include figures mounted in 2s and 3s as well.


TMWWBK uses an IGOUGO alternating turn sequence.

In his player turn, a unit is nominated for activation and 2 dice rolled. If the roll equals or exceeds the unit’s leadership value, the unit performs the indicated action. Some actions require no die roll for some unit types. All of a unit’s actions are resolved immediately and enemy casualties taken. Once a player has attempted to activate all his uits his turn is over. Play now proceeds to the opponent.


The Activation System: Most of the author’s recent titles for Osprey (including Lion Rampant and Dragon Rampant) use the 2D6 activation system. To activate a unit a player declares which action the unit will perform. Two dice are rolled, and modified by the unit’s Discipline value. If the result equals or exceeds the unit’s leadership rating, the unit performs the action announced (Move, Attack, Fire, etc.).

Each unit type may perform certain actions with no die roll necessary. Tribal infantry may move, for example, and cavalry may Attack (charge).

Movement: Movement is very casual and terrain is kept to a small number of kinds. Figurea re moved individually. The author encourages moving one or two and simply having the rest of the unit follow suit. Figures must remain in Cohesion (within 4” of each other) so a breezy movement system works quite well.

Fire Combat: Each unit has a Firing rating. Essentially you roll a D6 for each figure, scoring hits for dice equal to or above the Firing value. Each hit kills one enemy soldier. Terrain may protect by requiring two hits to cause one casualty. Additionally, shots at long range require two hits for one casualty. Weapons are graded for short and long range.

In addition, Regular infantry in close order may perform “Volley Fire.” This make their shooting more effective (+1) but makes them much more vulnerable to fire in return.

Melee: As with Friing, each unit has a Fight value. One die is rolled for each figure in the unit, with hots scored for equalling or exceeding their Fight value. In melee both sides fight, with the winner being the side scoring the most hits. There are no “saving throws” but as with firing, terrain may require two hits per casualty.

Morale: Units are required to take “Pinning Tests” for a few reasons. If they take casualties, if a friendly units routs, or they lose a melee, units must test. To test roll 2D6. Modify ot for casualties taken this turn and Discipline. Compare the result to the unit’s Leadership. Failure means the unit acquires a “Pinned” marker.

In their turn Pinned units must attempt to Rally in lieu of any other action. 2D6 are rolled and compared to the unit’s Leadership rating. If successful, the unit removes all pinned markers, but may take no further action in the turn. If the result is 2 or less, the unit routs and is removed. Otherwise it retains its pinned markers and retreats a half move.


The book contains a complete “points system” for building your forces. The standard is 24 points. Units generally cost 3-6 points, but players may up/down grade them to make them cheaper or dearer. Thus you may make your men marksmen (costs more points) or they can be poorly armed (costs less).

As the unit types are fairly limited to just a few types (which makes sense given the game’s scope) differentiation comes in the upgrades. There are suggestions for the kinds of forces you would build to represent various armies (Boers, Zulus, Pathan, etc.)

The book also provides 8 “generic” scenario types for pick up games. In addition there is a simple “solitaire system” that will run tribal bands against players who may be regulars or other tribal forces.


Like his other games, these are very, very quick. Forces are small, luck plays a heavy role, and games end decidedly and quickly. As with all of the Osprey games the book is very attractive. This game follows on his engine used in Lion Rampant, Pikeman’s Lament, etc. As such it is well tested, easy to read, and quite approachable.


I have not played TMWWBK (but plan to do so soon), but have played a number of his other, similar games (Lion Rampant and Dragon Rampant). The basic engine gives a good, fast game and you will find players know the rules in a turn or two. If you are looking for games with fine detail and lots of troop differentiation, keep looking. But for a fast 90 minute game you can quikcly set up on the fly, these are a lot of fun.

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