Playing 1 BC (1 Brain Cell) wargames with little green soldiers with a 5 year old son

For years I’ve wanted one of my son’s to play tabletop wargames.I love them, all that moving around little toy soldiers – apologies: finely detail miniature figurines.Strategy is great fun, and you can work with units or individual figures.

The problem is that many of the games which are commercially available are far too complicated, and you can spend literally hours trying to get used to all the rules, and more hours trying to find all the rules that you have forgotten in the heat of battle, only to discover that having looked at a few tables, added and taken away modifiers and all the rest of it that it’s a bit of a let-down to discover that all you really needed to know was that you could hit on a roll of a 5 or a 6.Then you roll to see if you have actually damaged the other player…more tables and modifiers later and you may or may not actually do something of worth.THEN, if it is that type of game, more rolls are made to see if you recover from the hit, and what type of damage has been inflicted.

Then it’s your opponents ‘go’.

In a word…


Rather than the word we would prefer, WAAAAGH.(er, that’s an orc war-cry, for those of the uninitiated…trans. WAR).

It all takes so long, and can be very confusing.

Enter the wonderful world of 1BC, or 1 Brain Cell, gaming.It’s a bit murky as to who created the 1BC concept, and a number of websites have improved on the original concepts and use the phrasing happily.Top and bottom of it is this: rather than the many steps to get to some sort of resolution each round, those steps are simplified right down to something that can be worked out with little reference to rules.And this of course is ideal when one is wanting to play with kids as soon as they are old enough to play.

Enter my youngest son, Reuben.Roo, as we call him, was able to beat me at draughts unless I concentrated at the age of 4.Now he is 5, I have moved him onto wargaming.And we have started with the 1 Brain Cell Toy Soldier Rules system.Well, hardly a system and more of a guide.

And we quickly got to grips with it.Let’s outline what it is about this particular rules set that works so well.

1) Easy to learn

It’s divided into basic rules, and advanced.But even the basic rules can be divided down.The steps are simply move, shoot, hand to hand combat.I taught Reuben how to move following the guidelines of using a piece of A4 paper folded up.The full length is the main movement distance, and shooting ranges are determined by the length of the A4 paper, or folded in half for shorter measurements.Roo soon remembered this.

2) Fast.

When you are dealing with a 5 year old time is an issue.If you are fluffing around with rules and the like they’ll be off on some other adventure or other.So with only one page dealing with all the different weapons types, you’re onto a winner.

3) Variation

Of course, just one weapon type is boring.So if you are playing with toy green soldiers, then you need rules which will cover pistols, rifles, machine guns, bazookas, flame throwers and mortars.The rules say that with some weapons that would take longer to set up so you can’t move and shoot in the same round.Some weapons shoot further than others.There is another page of advanced rules which includes morale tests and overwatch rules, which we haven’t tried out yet.

4) Flexible

I wanted to add a couple of other rules in which would be easily enough to remember.Using a different coloured dice we said that if that dice rolled a 1, then the weapon jammed, or in the case of mortars and bazookas, they exploded killing everyone around them.As Roo said when mine exploded, bwahahahahaha!

Also, exploding shells had to have a blast radius, so that brought another tactic in to keep your soldiers apart a bit.

5) Setting up

Having looked at the figures we had, I decided that each squad should have a leader (pistol and spyglasses), 4 rifle-men, and two special weapons.Special weapons are basically anything without either pistol or rifle.Rifles with blades get an extra bonus modifier of +1 in hand to hand combat. If a mortar is used, they can be used from behind cover so long as they also have a radio operator who can view the target – Reuben got the hang of line of site and this particular rule with the radio operator very quickly, dispatching my operator and putting the mortar out of commission quickly.Grrrrr!Radio operators don’t count in the setup head count.There is a point system that this was based on, but it didn’t really make much difference of note.

Are there any frustrations?

Well actually yes.At first the soldiers fell over, and Reuben got bored standing them up.Also Reuben couldn’t quite get to grips with the idea of keeping his squads separate which would make working out morale difficult, which says that once reduced to less than half the squads originally starting number, a dice roll is made and if that role is more than the remaining number of squaddies, the troops leg it in the opposite direction.We simply removed them from play, but feasibly they could rally.

To solve both these problems I simply got some 1” pieces of coloured card from my wife’s craft bin, one colour for each squad, and used sticky tack (blue-tac/white-tac/PVA glue) to attach the figures to the card.That meant that as he moved his figures he could mix them up happily and we could still keep an eye on what was where.

A couple of other useful rules.First, when climbing a hill – that is, anything taller than the figures – the movement distance stopped at the top of the hill, and equally to come down the hill you had to stop at the foot of the hill that round.A hill gave a +1 bonus if you were on the hill firing at enemies not on the hill, and a -1 modifier to enemy fire (crest of the hill providing partial cover…looking upwards into the sky makes it slightly blinding…that kind of a thing). However, no matter the modifier, a roll of 6 always hit.

For 4 squads, we found that each game lasts about 90 minutes, with 4 or 5 turns each.

And who wins?Well actually, it’s Roo so far…he keeps rolling 6’s!

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