A Spanish Civil War Variant of
Square Bashing
Devised by
Martin Rapier


A copy of Square Bashing (published by RFCM) is required to use these rules. Square Bashing can be obtained from PETER PIG.


Whilst the Spanish Civil War has been seen by many as a rehearsal for W.W.II, and it did see the deployment of weapon systems and techniques used in that conflict, by and large the actual fighting bore much more relationship to W.W.I. Tactically combat was dominated by machine guns, entrenchments and massed infantry attacks. Artillery support was generally quite limited, and although tanks were present in increasing numbers as the war progressed, many were little more effective than their W.W.I predecessors, apart from greater mobility and reliability. The few attempts at independent armoured operations were often disastrous failures as the lightly armoured tanks of the time outran their infantry support and were shot to bits by field and anti-tank guns. The main innovation was the increased use of air support, both in the form of tactical air strikes, and in terror bombing.

There were periods of the war when operations were quite fluid, such as in 1936, and during the offensive into Catalonia in 1938, however for much of the time, the lines were fairly static. Neither side had enough resources to fight more than one major battle at a time, so from late 1936 onwards, the fighting tended to follow more of a W.W.I pattern, with one side or the other mounting an attack, and the other responding with counterattacks. The main differences from the First World War were that the initial attacks frequently gained up to 10 miles of ground, but were usually sealed off or even driven back by counterattacks. The Nationalists overall were more successful with their set piece attacks than the Republic, and as the war went on, the increasing superiority of Nationalist air, artillery and armoured resources tipped the balance further in their favour. Compared to W.W.II the ratios of supporting weapons were quite low, tanks frequently being parcelled out in company sized units to divisions, and available artillery support often being pitiful, with batteries of 2-3 guns (5-6 for the Nationalists) and even the "great" Republican offensive on the Ebro in 1938 only managed to amass some 50 Corps level guns to support the offensive.

Peter Pig’s Square Bashing covers W.W.I combat with the standard combat unit being the battalion, so it is suitable for actions up to divisional size. The AK47 set can also be used for the SCW, but I find it works better for more fluid early war actions, and with much smaller (battalion/brigade size) forces. In Square Bashing are some supplementary rules to cover the Russian Civil War, and some of these are applicable to the SCW as well.

Troop Composition

A pre-war Peninsular Army infantry division had two infantry brigades, each of two regiments, each regiment with four battalions. The battalions had four rifle companies and one machine gun company. There was also an artillery brigade with two artillery gruppos, each of three batteries. Cavalry regiments had four squadrons and a machine gun squadron.

During the war, many formations operated in more ad-hoc formations, especially the Republicans. Both sides tended to operate in "columns", forces of indeterminate size, designated by their commanders name, but roughly brigade sized forces. More formally, the brigade replaced the regiment as the primary tactical formation, and these could be composed of anything between two and five battalions (whereas a pre-war brigade had eight). Divisions became groupings of columns and/or brigades.

Battalion sizes were generally far below establishment, but the proportion of automatic weapons (sub, light and heavy machine-guns) was considerably higher than comparable W.W.I formations, even amongst some militia units. Other heavy weapons were in short supply, especially mortars and tanks (a total of twenty in the whole of Spain in July 1936!), although field and anti-tank artillery was more plentiful. The superpower backers of each side did contribute considerable amounts of equipment, especially trucks, tanks, artillery and aircraft. The Italians even committed four weak divisions of ground troops, including the only fully motorised division in the war, however the bulk of support given to both sides was in the form of cadres and advisers. The overall degree of motorisation was very low, and both sides improvised transport from any vehicles which came to hand. The lack of motorisation made supporting sustained offensives very hard, especially bring up supplies to the front lines.

The net effect of these changes is that infantry battalions only have three stands, not four, so to count as "half strength" they need to be reduced to a single stand. Four stand battalions can still be used if desired, but the only effect of the extra stand is to increase their capacity to absorb casualties. For those short of cash, just use one stand per battalion and mark casualties as desired... The TO&Es below can be used to derive appropriate ratios of artillery and machine-guns. Bear in mind that the Nationalists generally were much better equipped with support weapons, both due to foreign supplies and simply being more professional in the care of their equipment; although Republican militia captured large amounts of artillery in 1936, much of it was simply abandoned on the battlefield when it ran out of ammunition, similarly with machine-guns.

Unlike W.W.I, machine gun companies were integral to infantry units, so for movement purposes, MG companies are assigned to infantry battalions and have to move with them. This in turn means that when assaulting, each battalion counts as two units if it has a machine-gun company. If you wish just use the standard rules as I find this one hard to keep track of as well!

Official TO&Es

Standard Infantry Battalion - Four rifle and one machine gun companies. In practice, most only had four companies, either four rifle or three rifle and one machine gun company. This was the standard unit on both sides. Generally the Nationalists were better provided with MGs, especially the Legion (who sometimes had two MG companies), whilst only favoured Republican units (i.e. Communist or International Brigades) could field whole MG companies.

Foreign Legion Bandera (Battalion) - Three rifle and one machine gun company, later in the war they often had enough MGs to form two companies.

Tabor of Moroccan Regulares (Battalion) - Two rifle companies and one machine gun platoon. The MGs may be amalgamated into companies at brigade level.

Tank/Armoured Car Battalion - Three armoured companies. Given the limited armoured strength available to either side, the companies could be very weak (the 1st. Armoured Regiment in Madrid in 1936 only had four tanks, but armoured formations on both sides became much stronger as the war progressed). Later in the war, tank battalions often had a strength of 40-60 vehicles, but were frequently parcelled out in company sized units. Nationalist tank companies were often stronger (15-20 v. 10) and later in the war were usually comprised of a mix of Pz1s and captured T26s in a ratio of 2:1.

Artillery Gruppo - Three batteries. The batteries were often very weak, frequently only consisting of 2-3 guns. Nationalist batteries were much stronger often of 5 guns, rising to 6 in 1938. In game terms they translate into one gun "company" per Republican Gruppo or Nationalist Battery.

Infantry Brigades (Republican mixed brigade) - Four infantry battalions, an artillery Gruppo and one anti-tank battery. In practice more usually three infantry battalions and a single artillery battery. The Nationalists grouped their artillery at Division level, so their brigades were just four infantry battalions.

Armoured Brigade - Four tank battalions and an armoured car company.

Infantry Division - Three infantry brigades, one artillery Gruppo, one anti-tank battery. Republican units tended to be smaller, with only two infantry brigades. As can be seen, the proportion of supporting arms was pitifully low compared to W.W.II formations, in game terms whilst a Republican division might have 6-12 battalions of infantry, they would be lucky if they were supported by more than two gun companies and 3-6 MG companies, plus a tank company or two. Even at Army level there might only be four companies of "heavy" guns. The Nationalist units were better provided, with around 12 infantry battalions,12 MG companies and 3-6 artillery companies per division. In contrast a W.W.II German infantry division had 9 infantry battalions with 9 MG companies and no less than thirteen artillery/AT companies, of which four were 105mm or larger as well as a much higher allotment of mortars.

Use the points costs as provided in the rules with the following modifications:

  1. No gas may be purchased
  2. Tanks are now either light or medium. Light tanks (MG armed) cost 25, Medium tanks (gun armed) cost 30.
  3. Artillery costs 25
  4. Both sides may purchases Storm Troops, and the rules for attachment of guns, MGs etc. apply (both sides used elite troops in this role, and suffered heavy losses).
  5. Players may purchase air support (if available) at a cost of 40 points per strike.
  6. Hasty field fortifications cost 15 (up to 7)

Army sizes as before range from 500-1200 points, although table widths should be reduced in proportion to Army Size to maintain troop densities - a 6x4 arrangement is for 1000 points, so really 500 points should be 3x4 (same depth). I’ve had quite good games with a width of 4 squares and a depth of 6, as the game system as it stands seems to favour the attacker somewhat.

If desired, the "propaganda offensives" (25 points) and "cadres" (10 points) from the RCW supplementary rules may also be used. I don’t not feel the RCW air rules work for SCW, where bombing raids rather than roving aircraft were more the norm. But if desired allow two kinds of air support, the 40 point "air strike" and the 15 point RCW planes. I would limit propaganda offensives to the first two years of the war as side changing became less common after that, similarly if you do use "roving planes", only use them in 1936/37. You may wish to allow both sides to purchase the full range of allowed barrage types (B, C or D). The "C" barrage is quite good fun, but players seem to prefer the destructive "B" barrages.

Weather effects - Spain has extremes of weather, from blistering heat to very very cold. Both conditions may make movement difficult, so use the East African weather rules in this case (3+ die roll to move).

Troop characteristics

As already indicated, infantry are now "full strength" with three stands, representing the greater firepower available to more modern infantry. If the battalion has a machine gun company, it must move and assault with its infantry component at all times, even though it is treated for combat purposes as a separate unit. If you like to keep it simple, just move the MGs as separate companies.

Artillery and tanks are more mobile due to improvements in engine technology, tanks move as armoured cars, artillery may move up to two squares (rolling for each one). As before, tanks may ignore the first morale failure on a square.

Light tanks only get 4 attack factors, medium tanks get 6. Medium tanks such as the T26 were better armed, armoured and therefore more tactically mobile than the light tanks of the era (CV 33 etc.).

Defending guns do not have to leave a square (they may if they wish). They get 3 defence factors, but if the attacker is using any armoured vehicles, they get 5. (Better anti-tank performance and doctrine). They are still overrun if the combat is lost.

HMGs are still effective anti-tank weapons at this stage of the war, so still get 8 on defence.

Airstrikes may be called on any one square adjacent to friendly units as artillery. A 4, 5 or 6 is required for it to arrive. Once it has arrived it may not be used again. They attack up to six units in that square as a type B barrage, including initiative effects.

Rules Changes

a. Morale

We have noticed that units are better off having three + morale failures rather than two, so suggest that units suffering 3 failures have to retreat (as for 2) as well as rolling for unit break-up, and must take a further break-up roll for each extra failure. So a square suffering five failures would retreat and make three rolls for each unit to see if it disintegrates.

b. Command and Control

Ideally some sort of command and control rules should be required, especially to show the frequent problem of non co-operation on the Republican side. I am still thinking about this, but here are some suggestions:

  1. rate a whole army as either enthusiastic, reliable or reluctant. Reliable armies move as per the rules, reluctant armies have to roll a 3+ for any unit to move (in addition to any other rolls required). Enthusiastic armies are basically reliable, but if an enthusiastic square is adjacent to the enemy they must roll a D6 and on a 1, 2, or 3 will automatically attack it! This may make co-ordinated attacks difficult and/or suicidal.
  2. have some sort of brigade integrity, but this may be over complex e.g. only a "brigade" may move, and only those units of the brigade in or adjacent to the same square can do so.
  3. each side is allocated a number of aides/messengers to carry orders per turn. Good units have four, average units three and bad units two. Each messenger can activate all the units in a single square, and without the messenger they can’t move, and if they can’t move they can’t assault. If you are paranoid (see random events later) you may wish to send two messengers! I like this method and have a run a few games using it. Players who scatter their forces all over the table suddenly find they cannot move everything, which must be good, and it is quite simple to run.

c. Random Events

It is always nice to have some random events as they can be used to inject some period flavour into a rule set. Player feedback has suggested that Square Bashing needs a bit of such help to make it work for the SCW. There are two possible approaches (the AK47 combat generated system doesn’t really work), to use cards or a simple table of events. I prefer cards as event tables give perfect knowledge to both sides and are less interactive, although cards take more preparation.

Each side draws three cards at the start of the game, they may hold up to three cards at any one time, but may play them at the beginning of each phase of the turn based on initiative. Only one card may be "active" for a square or specific unit, and any conflicts are going to have to be sorted out amicably or just say the first one played takes precedence. At the end of the turn they may discard any cards and draw cards from the deck to make them back up to three. Some cards are "must play" cards and must be placed immediately when they are drawn, so take effect next turn, other cards are specific to one side or the other, or apply to both sides.

Must Play

Both Sides

Affect Republican only

Affect Nationalist only

d. Victory Points

The victory points under value the worth of certain destroyed units, count destroyed artillery or tank units as 2 VPs each.

In the SCW both sides made a high priority the capture or retention of built up areas, so it may be worth adding extra VPs (say 1 or 2 points) per built up area held (or see random events).

Typical Army Compositions

There are not many hard and fast rules here, but some typical division sized formations might be as follows.

All troops are regular unless otherwise noted.

Republican, Madrid (July 1936)

1   HQ
0-2   Light Tank or Armoured Car
0-6   MG Company
1-4   Field Guns
0-2   Battalion Assault Guards (Prof)
0-2   Battalion Civil Guards
0-2   International Column
0-12   Militia Columns (Reservist?)
0-1   Barrage
0-2   Storm troops.

Republican, Madrid (November 1936)

1-2 HQ
0-2 Medium Tank or Armoured Car
0-6 MG Company
1-4 Field Guns
0-2 Battalion Assault Guards (Prof)
0-2 Battalion Communist 5th Regiment (Prof)
0-6 Battalions International Brigade
3-8 Militia Columns (Res?)
0-1 Airstrike
0-1 Barrage
0-3 Storm Troops

Republican, Catalonia, Durutti Column

1 HQ
0-6 Armoured Cars
0-2 Field Gun
0-6 MG Company
0-2 Battalion Assault Guards (Prof)
0-12 Militia Columns (Res)
0-2 Storm Troops

Republican Catalonia, POUM Militia

1 HQ
0-2 Field Gun
0-6 MG Company
0-2 Battalion Assault Guards (Prof)
0-2 International Column
0-16 Militia Columns (Res)
0-2 Storm Troops

Republican, International Brigades

1-2 HQ
1-4 Medium Tank
0-2 Armoured Car
0-6 MG Team
0-2 Field Gun
0-12 Battalions International Brigade
0-6 Battalions Regulars
0-2 Airstrikes
0-1 Barrage
0-6 Storm Troops

Republican, Popular Army

1 HQ
0-2 Medium Tank
0-6 MG Company
1-4 Field Guns
0-2 Battalion Assault Guards (Prof)
0-2 Battalion 5th. Regiment (Prof)
0-6 Battalions International Brigades
0-8 Militia Columns (Res)
0-1 Barrage
0-1 Airstrikes
0-4 Storm Troops

Nationalist, Army of Africa 1936

1-2 HQ
0-2 Armoured Car (Prof)
0-4 Field Guns (Prof)
0-12 MG Companies (Prof)
0-4 Battalions Regulares (Moors) (Prof)
0-4 Battalions Tercio (Foreign Legion) (Prof)
0-2 Cavalry (Prof)
0-6 Other Infantry (militia, regulars, civil guard) (Res/Reg)
1-2 Airstrikes
0-1 Barrage
0-6 Storm Troops

Nationalist, Army of the North

1 HQ
0-2 Armoured Car
1-4 Field Guns
0-6 MG Company
0-2 Battalion Civil Guards
0-2 Battalion Regulares (Prof)
0-2 Battalion Falangist Militia (Res)
0-10 Carlist Militia
1-2 Airstrikes
0-1 Barrage
0-2 Storm Troops

Nationalist, Madrid 1936 (all professional)

1-2 HQ
0-4 Light Tanks
0-2 Field Gun
0-12 MG Companies
0-6 Battalions Regulares
0-6 Battalions Tercio
1-2 Airstrikes
0-1 Barrage
0-6 Storm Troops

Nationalist, Italian CTV

1 HQ
1-4 Light Tanks
0-2 Armoured Car
0-2 Field Gun
0-12 MG Companies
0-4 Regular Infantry
0-8 Militia Infantry (Blackshirts) (Res)
1-2 Airstrikes
0-1 Barrage
0-4 Storm Troops

Enough trucks to motorise the entire force may also be purchased.


1-2 HQ
0-2 Light Tank
0-2 Medium Tank
0-6 Field Gun
0-12 MG Companies
0-2 Battalion Regulares (Prof)
0-2 Battalion Tercio (Prof)
0-2 Falange Militia (Res)
0-6 Regular Infantry
0-4 Storm Troops
0-2 Airstrikes
0-1 Barrage


Marks Hannan’s SCW Website and SCW DBA variant rules:

Bob Cordery's SCW Website, book "La Ultima Cruzada" and Spanish Civil War Rules:

Osprey Elite Series "International Brigades in Spain 1936-39"

Osprey "Spanish Civil War 1936-39"

Osprey "The Ebro 1938"

"Tanks and Trucks of the Spanish Civil War" by Wilson

"Blood of Spain" by Ronald Fraser

"The Spanish Civil War" by Hugh Thomas

"The Spanish Civil War" by Antony Beevor

Miniature Wargames "The Spanish Civil War" series

Ken Loach’s film "Land and Freedom"

"Homage to Catalonia" by George Orwell

"Moment of War" by Laurie Lee

Cuadro Golpeando!

Summary of Changes to Square Bashing

Troop types and costs:

  1. Infantry Battalions may have three stands at full strength (four is still OK).
  2. No gas may be purchased
  3. Tanks are now either light or medium. Light tanks (MG armed) cost 25, Medium tanks (gun armed) cost 30.
  4. Artillery costs 25
  5. Both sides may purchases storm troops, and the rules for attachment of guns, MGs etc. apply (both sides used elite troops in this role, and suffered heavy losses).
  6. Players may purchase air support (if available) at a cost of 40 points per strike.
  7. Hasty field fortifications cost 15 (up to 7)

RCW variant units may also be used (cadres, propaganda offensives, planes).

Troop characteristics:

  1. tanks move as armoured cars (2 squares)
  2. artillery may move up to two squares (rolling as normal for each one).
  3. light tanks only get 4 attack factors, defence factors remain 2
  4. medium tanks get 6 attack factors, defence factors remain 2.
  5. defending guns do not have to leave a square that is attacked (they may if they wish).
  6. defending guns get 3 defence factors, but if the attacker is using any armoured vehicles they get 5. (Better anti-tank performance and doctrine). They are still overrun if the combat is lost.
  7. Airstrikes may be called on any one square adjacent to friendly units as artillery. A 4, 5 or 6 is required for it to arrive. Once it has arrived, it may not be used again. They attack up to six units in that square as a type B barrage, including initiative effects.

It may be desired to use weather effects to restrict movement (3+ to move) and armies rated as "reluctant" have additionally restricted movement (3+). This may result in a lot of dice being rolled to move a single unit!

Each side is allotted messengers (2-4). Units in a square may only move if a messenger is placed in their square. Place messengers in initiative order before movement. This may be affected by random events.

Example orders of battle:

(all infantry are three stands)

700 point game, so should probably use a 4x4 table with 2 squares unoccupied. Both sides have some fortifications and some specialist offensive units.


HQ Free
2 x Prof inf 78 Assault guards etc.
3 x Regular inf 90 International Brigade
4 x Reservist inf 84 Militia
3 x Regular MG 60
3 x Regular gun 75
2 x Regular tank 60
1 x Airstrike 40
1 x B Barrage 50
2 x Storm troop 40 Professional
3 x L1 trench 45
3 x L2 trench 75

Nationalists (all professional)

HQ Free
6 x Inf 234 Moroccans etc.
6 x MG 138
3 x Gun 84
4 x Light tank 112
1 x Airstrike 40
1 x B Barrage 50
1 x L1 trench 15
1 x L2 trench 25

A Historical Scenario

The Battle for the Corunna Road

3rd January 1937

The Nationalist failed to take Madrid by direct assault in late 1936, so their efforts shifted to cutting the city off by severing its main communications links to the north and south east. In early December they attacked in the region of Boadilla north-west of Madrid to cut the Corunna road, with four mobile columns under General Varela. Heavy Republican counterattacks forced them back again, at the cost of high casualties to both sides. Both sides dug in and reinforced their troops.

The Nationalist columns were reinforced with conscripts, German trained Falangist militia, planes and tanks. The Republicans moved a full Corps of five divisions into the area under Miaja. In January to Nationalists attacked again, four of their brigades attacking Modestos division comprising four of the new "mixed" brigades.

Corunna Road Map

In this battle Colonel Barrons reinforced brigade is attacking from Villanueva de la Canada with the objective of taking Las Rosas on the Corunna Road. In opposition are the mixed brigades of EI Campesino and Luis Barcello. The Nationalist brigade is organised along the eight battalion pre-war model (two regiments of four battalions each), whilst the Republican mixed brigades are supposed to have four battalions each. The Republican divisions can only muster a couple of artillery companies as their batteries are so weak, whilst the Nationalists are better off in this regard.

Nationalist Forces (regular unless shown)

1st Regiment
2 x Moorish Infantry Battalions (prof)
2 x Infantry Battalions
4 x MG companies (2 x prof)

2nd Regiment
2 x Moorish Infantry Battalions (prof)
2 x Infantry Battalions
4 x MG companies (2 x prof)

Brigade/Corps Assets
2 x Field Gun
1 x Barrage (B or C)
1 x Airstrike
1 x Col Barron (HQ)
2 x Light tank companies
3 x messengers

Republican Forces (regular)

Luis Barcelos Brigade
4 x Infantry Battalions
2 x MG companies

EI Campesinos Brigade
3 x Infantry Battalions
3 x MG companies

Division Assets
1 x Field Gun
1 x Medium Tank Company
1 x Commissar (cadre)
4 x Light fortifications
4 x Medium fortifications
1 x propaganda offensive
3 x messengers

Handicap +6 VPs

The battlefield is 6x4, fighting along its length, the battle lasts 10 turns (10 hours). Use the PP victory conditions as a guide, but basically the Nationalists need to take the eastern road squares with a clear LOC to win. The river is passable. VPs are awarded for squares held/captured, lots of VPs if the attacker takes a base square, and also for totally destroyed units (3 for infantry, 2 for guns/tanks, 1 for others).

I’ve run this battle three times now and it seems fairly balanced, it was also the first outing for the new "event cards" which went down quite well. In one game the Nationalists stormed into Las Rosas and drew "Viva EI Cristo Rey" and a bunch of Falangists emerged from hiding, next turn the Republicans got them with "Betrayed" and they withdrew again, then with "Traitors" and the Falangists promptly disappeared again!

This page was last up-dated on 17th January 2000

Martin Rapier (Cuadro Golpeando!)
RFCM (Square Bashing Rules)
Robert George Cordery (Layout)