Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Best Troops for Shambattle

Shambattle: How to Play with Toy Soldiers was written in 1929. Judging by the illustrations in the book, the author used three types of soldiers. Some were from the Theodore Hahn company of Jersey City. Several illustrations of officers and mounted men look as if they were inspired by Hahn figures. The rest apparently came from traditional toy soldier companies such as Britains, Johillco and others. I can assume that a few figures used were dimestore West Point cadets.
Today, Britains figures can be pricey. Johillco and other traditional toymakers have long since folded their tents. Theodore Hahn’s last year of production was 1929. What modern troops would suffice for a Shambattle army?
Let’s be practical. the main consideration for an army is its color: red, blue, green, yellow, etc Judging by the book, Shambattle armies represent fictional nations, each of which is based on a singular color. The book cities two fictional nations and their attendant colors. Red for Redina and Blue for Bluvia. People can add other colors to make other countries.
Shambattle is a stylized type of warfare. There is no musketry, no use of cover and traditional combat techniques. The resolution of battle is mostly through close combat. The roles of machine guns and artillery are minimal. Many combat poses might be out of place here.
Plastic figures are suitable, as are painted metal soldiers. Here are a few suggestions:

Napoleonic Figures and War of 1812 Troops

Most of the plastic Napoleonic figures have a big advantage because they are molded in color: Red for British, Blue for French and Americans, Green for Russians, and so on. The poses also tend to be more easily organized: marching, kneeling and standing shooters and such. Metal figures are painted in the same colors. For aesthetic purposes, small cannons can replace the machine guns, though they would fire the same way in the game.

Revolutionary War figures:

The majority of plastic Revolutionary War troops are Red for British, Blue for Americans, White for French and Green for Royalists. One brand even had Hessians in black.  As with Napoleonics, small cannons replace machine guns.

Civil War

Most sets of plastic and metal Civil War soldiers have good poses for use in Shambattle. Most Plastic Civil War figures are molded in blue and gray. Some makers also offer them in butternut tan and rifleman green. Zouaves in red plastic are also available. Gatling guns can be used as machine guns..
Note that troops from the Spanish-American war also look good in these games.

World War I Troops

The soldiers that come to mind are the Beton troops in pre-War Brodie helmets. They look pretty good and would make an interesting Shambattle army. Opt for the various standing, marching and advancing riflemen. Beton made one type of mounted World War I soldier. Most of the Betons are molded in tan or olive drab. There are other makes of World War I figures today, so you have more from which to choose. Those made in plastic come in colors related to the various armies and units. For games, exclude crawling and most kneeling figures.


Traditional guard type troops are perfect for Shambattle. West Point cadets and various British and French Guardsmen can be employed. What with the color variations in guards’ uniforms, you can have a very colorful army, indeed! You may use machine guns or Gatlings.

Colonial Troops

Colonial Troops are often colorful and distinctive. Among these are Indian troops during the British “Raj”, American Troops in the Philippines and China, French troops in North Africa and British troops from the Zulu, Sudan and Egyptian campaigns.  Few armies are as colorful and varied as the Indian troops from 1850 to the 1920s. Colonial natives can also make interesting armies. One of the best I’ve seen is an Egyptian army in white with red fezes. You can also make attractive armies such as the Chinese boxers, Sudanese Dervishes and Tuaregs.  Mitrailleuse, Gatlings and machine guns fit the bill here.

The salient fact is that today, there are even more options when it comes to armies for Shambattle. You can have it fast and cheap with colored plastic troops, or go for the more expensive, painted plastic and metal figures. You might even make your own! More than a few folks like to cast their own soldiers the old fashioned way.

You can obtain a reprint of the original Shambattle: How to Play with Toy Soldiers and the other Shambattle rules here:


There is a Shambattle and OMOG toy soldier games discussion on Facebook at


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