Resistance! – a campaign for the Frontier Wars



The purpose of this campaign is to portray a hypothetical series of battles where one side is the colonial ‘invader’ who wishes to occupy the land of traditional land holding natives ie in this case the British settlers encroaching on the lands of the Aboriginal land owners. The Colonial side’s task is to pacify the district the campaign is set in whilst the native player’s task is to deny them – Resist!

The campaign takes the form of a mapless series of linked tabletop scenarios and pre game ‘operations’ that tie together to give a narrative campaign; it is designed to be played either solo or ‘opposed’ with minimal fuss. There is virtually no record keeping. It can involve as many tabletop games as you like.

The campaign is rules agnostic and can accommodate any system or scale of operations you wish to portray. For our purposes we shall be using Smooth & Rifled for skirmish games, The Men Who Would Be Kings, Sharp Practicel and/or Muskets & Tomahwks for mass skirmish games and Death in the Dark Continent for ‘battle’ games.

These systems pitch each game at different scales of play; it’d be entirely possible to start out a campaign with a very small encounter; a skirmish game or two, then proceed to a couple of larger mass skirmish games and finish off with one last encounter with a ‘massed battle’ in something of a final showdown…this is quite doable in what is a rather flexible system. Alternatively, a ‘slow burn’ low intensity campaign can be fought using your chosen scale of play with just one rules set…the choice is yours.

Whilst intended for the Australian Frontier Wars the campaign system is in fact fairly generic and typical for any colonial power incursion scenario. It can be used in other theatres such as the South African Cape Wars, Indian Wars in North America, and so on, with very little adjustment.



In the Australian Frontier Wars a typical sequence of settler encroachment would be as follows;

  • At first, the Aborigines tolerate the settlers and sometimes welcomed them.
  • Settlers and their livestock cause competition for access to land resulting in friction between the parties.
  • Settlers’ presence becomes unacceptable to the native population; individuals are killed over specific grievances; these killings are then met with reprisals.
  • Open Warfare results;
    • Occasionally aborigines attacked colonists in open country, resulting in encounters akin to conventional battles.
    • More often, aborigines employ stealth and ambush in rugged country using guerrilla tactics; they engage in ‘economic warfare’, killing or capturing livestock, burning property, attacking drays which carried supplies, capturing supplies for their own use and instilling terror in the population.
    • Government response is to introduce military or police force to quash the raiders. They regularly seek out their enemy with punitive operations, often with overwhelming force in response to reprisal/revenge killings.
    • Aboriginal response varies from open confrontation to avoiding contact, resorting to hit-and-run tactics – asymmetric warfare. These prolonged tactics help the aboriginals sustain their resistance but also reduces their long term chance of success.
    • Similarly the colonial owners cannot allow an ever present raiding native force to engage in unrestricted economic warfare which makes occupation of the land untenable. They must pacify the district to attain success or be driven off the land.

…the stage is set for a campaign confrontation…



Each stage of the campaign is conducted before a normal miniatures battle using your selected rules, such as Sharp Practice. The campaign method should take little more than 5-10 mins. It represents a stage of the campaign leading up to an encounter or battle ie the miniatures game.

The aim for the native player is to increase the level of insurrection such that it becomes unsustainable for the settlers to remain in that district and are thus driven away. The aim of the colonial player is the opposite ie quell the insurrection, seeking terms or driving away the native forces.

The Insurrection Level is an abstract mechanism that reflects the ‘cost’ of conducting operations and also the current level of success of those operations; thus it costs you resources (by giving up Insurrection Points – IP) in an effort to increase the Insurrection Level in your favour.

Sometimes operations will deliver a net negative effect reflecting a bad outcome from your attempt to influence the Insurrection Level in your favour – hopefully your efforts will be rewarded!

Each player engages in a series of ‘operations’ which represent the many week to week actions that comprise any military campaign. Collectively they contribute to the outcome of the campaign but it is your tabletop battles that are the defining encounters in the campaign. The everchanging Insurrection Level, determined by Operations, will be combined with the results of your tabletop games to deliver a campaign outcome.

The campaign uses a bidding system before each tabletop miniatures game. This is conducted until one side achieves an insurrection level increase (Native) or decrease (Colonial) of three levels or more. Players bid against one another in an attempt to have the ‘right’ to conduct operations, however bidding is not compulsory.

If one side forgoes the opportunity to bid and lets his opponent keep rolling his operations dice as the active player, this player still pays one Insurrection Level point cost to conduct his operations – thereby allowing him to act alone and hopefully achieve the three Insurrection level increase he needs more quickly. Once he does so play then proceeds to the table top.

The player who gains the three point Insurrection Level shift, we shall call the Initiative player, can choose to be the attacker or defender in the upcoming scenario or choose the scenario to play – one or the other.

[Optional rule – depending on your miniature rules of play, the Initiative player who has the overall increased insurrection level may choose the scenario to be played in the upcoming table top battle as above. However, he also uses the level of difference that the Insurrection Level has increased by as a modifier to any die rolls that are used to determine the attacker or defender, or possibly to influence terrain placement and concentration, (use judgement as to how much of a modifier based on your rules of choice ie he has some level of initiative by choosing the situation for the battle and maybe dictate the manner in which he wishes his tactical posture to be, but cannot guarantee the battle of his choosing, he use the score difference to influence the outcome – this makes things a little less predictable].

These operations also provide players with their campaign narrative as each operation occurs when battles and encounters are fought. If one wanted to, you could arbitrarily mark the operations on a map to provide a visual depiction of the operations you rolled the operations dice for. These operations markers can indicate what operations were undertaken and can be placed anywhere on the map and thereby build up a visual picture of campaign making it a little more visually thematic – remember however, it is an abstract system, and such a map is not required.



Each player must bid a number between 1 and 6 (use a hidden d6 to ‘show’ your number). The highest player score wins that round of the bidding and may conduct an ‘operation’ to increase the level of Insurgency.

In the event of a tied bidding score both players roll a d6, the highest choosing to conduct operations or not. If a player chooses to conduct operations, in the case of tie, it does not cost him an Insurrection Level point – his preparations are fortuitously arranged at minimal cost…bravo! He may however forgoe this ‘free operation’ and force his opponent to conduct operations instead, which he must due (reflecting political or inter-tribal pressure to ‘act’).

In the usual case of one player outbidding the other however, the cost to the successfully bidding player is in Insurrection Level points shifting toward the other player’s favour equal to the difference in bidding scores between the two players, this reflecting the resources the bidding player expends to conduct operations…the higher the difference the greater resources used to earn the right to conduct operations.

Example – We shall assume the Insurrection Level is at 12. Player A (Aboriginal) secretly bids the number of 4 on his d6, whilst player B (British) bids number 2. This means player A has won this round of bidding by two (4-2=2) and may conduct Operations. As a result, player A has had to use up 2 Insurrection Points which is the ‘cost’ of his operations, therefore the Insurrection Level is shifted from 12 to 10 (12-2=10), which is in the favour of player B (British).

With luck the successful bidding player’s operations will generate more of an Insurrection Level boost from his operations than those expended to his bidding. Thus, if you bid to high to often you can put your campaign in jeopardy by the expenditure of to many Insurrection Level points (resources) for not enough gain in operations or battle returns.



An operation is conducted by rolling 6d6 for the operations listed below – note, these operations are shown in descending order by the level of risk/reward a player receives ie the lower down the table you go the bigger the pay-off, but with more risk of little or no return. It is perfectly possible your operations will deliver a negative effect, abstractly reflecting lost raids and skirmishers.

Method – the successful bidding player (as determined above) chooses an operation type and then rolls 6d6. Make a note of the overall Insurrection Level shift +/- number.

  • Native player operations
    • Farm Raid – crop burn – Increase the insurrection level by 1 for each 5 or 6 scored, however cancel out any increase if two or more 1s are rolled.
    • Farm Raid – livestock attack –  Increase the insurrection level by 1 for each 6 scored.
    • Intimidate Settler – Increase the insurrection level by 1 for each 5 or 6 scored, but reducing the level by 2 for each 1 rolled.
    • Farm Raid – plunder supplies – Increase the insurrection level by 1 for each 5 scored, 2 for each 6 scored, but reduce it by 2 for each 1 rolled.
    • Revenge – Increase the insurrection level by 1 for each 5 or 6 scored, but reducing the level by 2 for each 1 rolled
    • Dray Attack – Increase the insurrection level by 3 for each 6 scored, however cancel out any increase if two or more 1s are rolled.
  • Colonial player operations
    • Mounted Patrol – Increase the insurrection level by 1 for each 5 or 6 scored, however cancel out any increase if two or more 1s are rolled.
    • Peace delegation: Increase the insurrection level by 1 for each 6 scored.
    • Foot Patrol: Reduce the insurrection level by 1 for each 5 or 6 scored, but increase  the level by 2 for each 1 rolled
    • Camp Attack – Reduce the insurrection level by 1 for each 5 scored, 2 for each 6 scored, but increase it by 2 for each 1 rolled.
    • Reprisal – Reduce the insurrection level by 1 for each 5 or 6 scored, but increasing the level by 2 for each 1 rolled
    • Area Sweep – Reduce the insurrection level by 3 for each 6 scored, however cancel out any decrease if two or more 1s are rolled.

If a player’s Insurrection Level, after conducting an operation, has not shifted by three levels (up or down), then proceed to the next round of operations bidding as before (Bidding – see above).

This sequence continues until a shift of three Insurrection Levels occurs which is deducted for each round of bidding operations.

Exception – a player that bids successfully, but causes the Insurrection Level to favour his opponent such that the opposing player would win the campaign, causes an immediate tabletop battle to be fought ie there are no Operations die rolls…in this way the campaign can only ever be won or lost with a final tabletop battle being fought.

Example – player A (Aboriginal) is the successful bidding player and must now conduct operations. The current Insurrection Level is 10. Player A is hoping his operations will generate a shift of 3 or more, thus bringing on a significant encounter ie the game you will play on the table top. He chooses to conduct a ‘Farm Raid – livestock attack’. This is a fairly low risk type of operation and good for ‘building’ the insurrection. He rolls 6d6 scoring, 1,2,3,3,5,6. This gives an Insurrection Level shift of +2, thereby increasing the Insurrection Level back up to 12 (10+2=12). Unfortunately, it is not enough to force an engagement as he needs a three point Insurrection Level increase…so both player’s bid again.

Player A this time bids 3, whilst player B bids 6, a very aggressive bid. Player B wins by three, causing the Insurrection Level to shift from 12 to 15. Player B then chooses to undertake a ‘Camp Attack’ operation. He rolls 1,1,1,2,6,6. The die rolls of two 6s gain him a a +4 benefit, the three 1s cause him a -6 loss, for an overall loss of -2…clearly an unsuccessful camp attack. This results in an overall shift of the Insurrection Level for player B of -3 (the cost of the operation) and -2 (the result of the operation), for a total shift of -5. This places the Insurrection Level now at 17, meaning for this campaign the aboriginal insurrection is going very this shift is 3 Insurrection Levels or more a tabletop encounter will be fought…



In the above example as there was an overall Insurrection Level shift of three (five in this case) a tabletop scenario is now played as mentioned. Player A, having had the Insurrection Level shift in his favour, may choose the scenario or choose to be the attacker of defender in the scenario ie he is the Initiative player. If using the optional game set up rule player A would choose the scenario and also have a bonus modifier when determining wether to be the attacker or defender.



For any game, players may use forces as large or as small as they choose, dependant on the game system played and figures available. For our purposes, as mentioned above, we are using the game systems previously discussed to represent varying levels of conflict ie Smooth & Rifled for skirmish games, Sharp Practice, The Men Who Would  Be Kings, or Muskets & Tomahawks for mass skirmish Games and Death in the Dark Continent for ‘battle’ games. Players need only agree on a size of game they wish to play and follow the guidelines in their chosen rules and get to it!

One twist we can add is additional Reinforcements. If a player seeks a decisive edge in a game he may, one time during the campaign (see below) increase his forces. This could represent him trying to mass forces to deliver a telling blow in the campaign, perhaps to win it with a decisive victory or stave off impending defeat ie a last stand. This bonus increases his forces by 25% for the upcoming battle.

However the implications for such a gamble are that he must achieve a decisive victory as determined by the rules he is using. If he does not then he has squandered his resources and provided succour to his enemy. This results in his opponent gaining D3+1 Insurrection Points in his favour reflecting a praiseworthy press or bush reputation enhanced. If however he is successful then he rolls a d6 at the conclusion of the game and if he scores a 5 or 6 he may once again use the Reinforcements rule above…to the victor the spoils!



During the campaign players need to keep a track of what the Insurrection Level is. This will be a number on a scale from 0 to 20, with 0 representing a subdued Native populace and 20 meaning the Colonial side is defeated and abandons the district, deeming the land to hostile to settle.

During the campaign small scale operations (as reflected by the dice roll bidding system) aren’t considered enough to completely dominate an area nor win the campaign – to do that battles and encounters must be fought and won ie your tabletop games.

Victory Method #1 – Before the campaign starts players should decide how many tabletop battles they wish to fight – this to a degree will determine the resource effort each player puts into each game they play…a longer campaign may involve a more prudent tabletop approach. Players can play the agreed to fixed number of games with the side having the Insurrection Level in their favour at their completion deemed to be the winner.

Victory Method #2 – Alternatively players can continue to fight tabletop battles and conduct Operations until the Insurrection Level is either 0 or 20. Using this method, tabletop battle victory delivers an Insurrection Level ‘victory die roll’, which shifts the Insurrection Level in their favour, the dice type dependant on the level of victory (see below). Such ‘decisive victories’ from your tabletop actions will have varying levels of impact on the Insurrection Level die roll score, thus reflecting the morale impact of tabletop victory.

Either approach is suitable and in fact players can decide to continue the campaign beyond the initial agreed tabletop battle number if they both are happy, thereby extending the campaign. You could adjust the Insurrection Level from 0 to 25 or 0 to 30…as you choose.

Adjusting the Insurrection Level based on your table top victory ie Victory Die Roll – A player that wins a tabletop victory rolls a die dependant on the level of victory. According to your rules used, this is a D3 for a tactical or minor victory and a D3+2 for a major victory. If a draw occurs then each player rolls a D3, the difference between the die scores being the Insurrection Level shift in favour of the higher scorer. Players then adjust the Insurrection Level and they are ready for the next round of Operations and tabletop action when next they meet.


By using the method described above an interesting narrative campaign can be put together and played in a matter of minutes before each tabletop encounter with players only needing to keep track of the current Insurrection Level, adjusting this using the expended bidding cost combined with the Operations die roll result and finally by the adjustment of your victory die roll score from the table top game; all used to adjust the Insurrection Level – the only record keeping required!

In this way victory comes from your strategy of bidding, the operations you conduct and your success from the tabletop games you play.


7 thoughts on “Resistance! – a campaign for the Frontier Wars

  1. Nice idea!

    One thing left me scratching my head – am I missing something or is the second option of these two always better than the first without any drawback:

    1) Intimidate Settler– Increase the insurrection level by 1 for each 5 or 6 scored, but reducing the level by 2 for each 1 rolled.

    2) Farm Raid – plunder supplies – Increase the insurrection level by 1 for each 5 scored, 2 for each 6 scored, but reduce it by 2 for each 1 rolled.

    The only difference, as far as I can tell, is that 6s generate 2 insurrection vs. 1 in the other operations type. Which means, whatever I roll in option 2 is always better than option 1. There is just no drawback. Same (obviously) with Foot patrol / Camp attack.
    Am I missing something?


  2. Hi Black Guardian,

    I didn’t run the probability numbers in detail. Are you saying probability wise these options would be best reversed for an ascending risk/reward relationship?


    Happy W.


    • Hi,

      I´m saying there is no added risk, only an increase in reward – which makes option 2 better in all aspects. Game Theory calls this a dominant strategy. There is simply no reason to chose option 1 if 2 is always better.

      The following examples will show what I mean:
      Let´s assume we roll 1, 1, 5, 3, 6, 4
      With option 1, we get 1 for each 5 or 6 (=2) but reduce the level by 2 for each 1 (-4) = -2
      WIth option 2, we get 1 for each 5 and 2 for each 6 (=3) but reduce the leven by 2 for each 1 (-4) = -1

      Another example: 3, 1, 4, 5, 2, 6
      Option 1 = +2 and -2 = -0 total
      Option 2 = +3 and -1 = +1 total

      Another one: 5, 6, 2, 5, 4, 2
      Option 1 = +3
      Option 2 = +4

      I can go on with any roll, there is simply no instance where option 2 is worse, as the only difference between the two options is +1 for each 6 rolled, which means the result will always be better (or at least the same) whatever the roll is.

      On second reading, I also noticed that Intimidate Settlers and Revenge do exactly the same, there is no difference between the two:

      Intimidate Settler –
      Increase the insurrection level by 1 for each 5 or 6 scored, but reducing the level by 2 for each 1 rolled.
      Revenge –
      Increase the insurrection level by 1 for each 5 or 6 scored, but reducing the level by 2 for each 1 rolled


  3. Thanks Guardian,

    Excellent leg work and and just the sort of things that tightens it up and makes it better. I’ll change them around, 1 for 2 and vic versa and then it should be good 😉

    Thanks for your input.




  4. …whilst you’ve got your ‘maths hat’ on…do the other ascending order risk/return missions make sense to you?

    Thanks – this kind of input is appreciated.



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