Do you like wargames but wish there was a way to easily fit two armies, terrain, and the rules in your pocket?

Well, now there is! Thanks to the Pocket Wargame rules.

You’ll just need one ordinary deck of cards and a pocket full of coins to play.


So that it’s easy to get hold of the terrain and fit it in your pocket, we’ll use a deck of cards for the battlefield.

The assumption here is that you’ll use a regular ‘French deck’ of 54 cards (Ace-King in Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, and Spades, plus two Jokers). If you wish to use another deck, that’s fine, but you’ll need to adapt things.

Typically other decks have fewer cards per suit (for example, 8 or 9 for a German deck, ten or twelve for a Spanish one) and may or may not come with jokers – so the battlefield might be a little smaller. The suits are also likely different, which would mean you need to assign which suit is which.

I recommend treating acorns/staves as clubs, leaves/swords as spades, coins/pentacles/bells as diamonds, and cups as hearts. That should cover most traditional card decks, but feel free to come up with whatever you think best suits the deck and terrain you want to use.

If you are using a scenario, it will determine what sorts of terrain the suits represent and possibly specify some of the battlefield’s layout. Otherwise, choose a terrain type.

Suggested ‘Normal’ Terrain

Clubs = woodland

Diamonds = hills

Hearts = open

Spades = rough

Terrain Variants

Steppes – Clubs = open, not woodland.

Wetland – Spades = swamp or marsh (court cards = lakes)

Mountainous – Spades = mountains

Feel free to create your own terrain types. You’re good to go as long as everybody knows what suit is what sort of terrain.


There are no points values in this game; either give each player identical armies or use the forces shown in one of the scenarios.

For ease of assembling an army and portability, we will use coins for the units.

Originally I created these rules for UK coinage but they should work fine with other currencies as long as everybody can quickly tell what coin is what sort of unit.

You may even like to use a different currency per player to help distinguish the units. This means you’re not likely to be able to play with the coins in your pockets, though, and it will probably mean keeping a set of coins specifically for gaming.

If you are using the same currency for each player, you should play with each player placing their units on the end of a card nearest them to track the owner of each coin.

Keep at least a couple of coins aside (not part of the armies) to use for making tests.

UK Coins

Copper coins are infantry, with 1p as light infantry and 2p as heavy infantry.

Round silver coins are cavalry, with 5p as light cavalry and 10p as heavy cavalry.

Heptagonal silver coins are missile troops, with 20p as light ranged (such as slings or archers) and 50p as heavy ranged (such as artillery).

The £1 and £2 coins are special units, typically used for scenarios. Precisely what they represent will vary.

EU coins

Copper coins are light units, with 1c as light infantry, 2c as light cavalry, and 5c as light missile troops.

Gold coins are heavy units, with 10c as heavy infantry, 20c as heavy cavalry, and 50c as heavy missile troops.

The 1€ and 2€ coins are special units, typically used for scenarios. Precisely what they represent will vary.

US coins

US coins are a little more problematic, as it’s harder to group them visually. If you’re using them, ideally, you and your opponent should be familiar with them, though, so this hopefully won’t be a problem for you.

I’m going to recommend the following: 1c as light infantry and 5c as heavy infantry, 10c as light cavalry and 25c as heavy cavalry, 50c as light missile and silver dollars as heavy missile troops.

Gold dollars (such as the Sacagawea dollar) are the special units.

Whatever coins you end up using, both players need to be familiar with which face is ‘heads’ and which face is ‘tails’. For coins where one side is a portrait, this is pretty easy, but for others, it’s not so obvious.


If using a scenario, use the instructions to set up the battlefield and the forces.

Otherwise, decide how big an area the battlefield will be. With a standard 54-card deck, nine cards wide by six cards deep makes the largest battlefield, but you can use fewer cards to give less room for manoeuvre or where the surface you’re playing on isn’t big enough for the entire deck.

Also (if not specified by a scenario), choose what terrain each suit represents and what the Jokers mean.

Shuffle the deck, and deal out cards face up to form the grid.

Orientate them in a ‘portrait’ fashion (so the long edge is pointing from one player to the other, and the short edge is side to side). This is so the players can show which coins belong to their army by placing them on the end of the card nearest themself.

If using a scenario, arrange the forces as instructed. Otherwise, each player’s deployment area is on the opposite edge of the battlefield to each other. Simultaneously place one coin with the ‘heads’ side up on a card in your deployment area until you’ve put all your units on the map. Light cavalry may also be deployed in the open ground one card away from the deployment area.

Each card counts as a location in these rules.


If the scenario doesn’t specify who goes first (or you’re not using one), toss a coin to see which player goes first.

The turn order is:

  • Cavalry
  • Ranged
  • Movement
  • Melee
  • End

For each phase, the first player acts first with all their units, and then the other player does likewise with theirs.

Cavalry Phase

Cavalry may move onto a horizontally or vertically adjacent location as long as both the location they are coming from and the one they are going to are either hills or open ground.

Ranged Combat Phase

Missile troops not in melee may shoot at an enemy unit within range.

Light missile troops have a base range of 1. Heavy missile troops have a base range of 2. The ranged unit being on a location with a higher elevation than the target unit increases this range by one.

The range is counted via horizontal and vertically adjacent locations (so a diagonally adjacent location is range two because that’s one away horizontally and one away vertically).

Treat the attack as a combat test, except only the target unit can be damaged.

Movement Phase

Each unit may move onto a horizontally or vertically adjacent location. (Yes, cavalry moves both in the cavalry phase and this one)

Melee Combat Phase

If there are units from two or more opposing forces in the same location, they will attack each other. It is up to the players whether two forces are opposing or not, and they are free to change this from turn to turn, but two forces are only neutral or allied if both of their players consider them to be.

All units on a location that are involved in melee make a combat test.

End Phase

If the scenario has any special rules that apply in an end phase, this is the time when they happen.

After any of these, a new turn begins.


To resolve combat, first, check the forces involved.

If there are enough spare coins not on the battlefield to replicate a player’s units involved, then that player tosses those coins.

If not, you can make a note of which units are showing ‘heads’ and which are showing ‘tails’ and then toss the actual coins from the location of the combat.

All units treat each result of ‘heads’ as damaging one enemy unit.

Specific units and circumstances may instead treat a result of ‘heads’ as able to cancel a point of damage if desired. These are:

  • Light units that are shot at in ranged combat.
  • Any unit in a woodland location that is shot at in ranged combat.
  • Heavy infantry and cavalry in melee on open ground or hill locations.

Each player takes turns to spend one of their ‘heads’ results to damage an enemy unit (or, if possible, use one to cancel the damage their opponent just dealt). Start with the player with the most ‘heads’, with the first player as a tie-break.

Apply damage as desired following these rules:

1) You must assign one damage to each enemy unit before you can give a second damage result to any of them.

2) You must assign damage to units that threw a ‘tails’ result in preference to ones that got a ‘heads’ result, except where that would break rule #1.

3) You must assign damage to units that are steady in preference to ones that are wavering, except where this would break rules #1 or #2.

Units that are steady and take damage get flipped over to show that they are wavering. Units that take damage while wavering are destroyed, and their coin is removed from the map. Combat results for destroyed units still count, as the results happen simultaneously, even if you assign them one at a time.

The ‘shaken’ and ‘destroyed’ conditions for units represent a combination of morale and casualties. A destroyed unit may simply have routed off the field.

Terrain Rules

Here’s what I recommend if you don’t want anything special or to use a pre-written scenario.


Woodland terrain prevents cavalry from taking their extra move to or from it.

Any unit being shot at with ranged combat may use ‘heads’ results to reduce damage.


Count as higher elevation than anything other than hills or mountains.


Count as higher elevation than any other terrain.

Prevents cavalry from taking their extra move to or from this location.

It is not possible to between a mountain location and a location that isn’t either a hill or mountain.

Swamp or marsh

Prevents cavalry from taking their extra move to or from this location.

Open ground

Counts as ‘good going’ for all units.


Units cannot be on this location, unless a scenario says otherwise.


What do you think of these rules?

Is this something I should polish up and make a nice PDF of, with some pre-written scenarios, etc.? (Free for my patrons, obvs.)

Let me know.

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